This specific graveyard is part of a much larger overall attempt, in which multiple organizations and individuals were complicit, to destroy the First Nations within Canada as cultures, in the process willingly destroying many of the individual members of those cultures.
And that specific pattern of behavior is part of a much larger, much older, and still ongoing pattern of human behavior. Since the beginning of history and probably before, human groups have been trying to destroy other human groups: whether by killing them, by enslaving them and forcing them to follow the culture of the captors (sometimes including forced marriage and claiming the children), by forced conversion, by destruction of languages, by forbidding customs and rituals, by combinations of all of the above.
It’s wrong. It’s horrendous. And it’s stupid; partly because it loses us the skills and talents of the destroyed members of those cultures, partly because it loses us the knowledge of those cultures, and partly because, in attempting to impose one way of life on everybody, it damages both individuals (whoever they’re born to) who would do well in other cultures but not in that one, and our chances of surviving whatever the universe throws at us in the next million or whatever years.
It’s horrendous and stupid and wrong. And we need to stop doing it.
But we’re not going to stop doing it by saying (none of this is direct quotes) ‘oh, everybody did that sort of thing and it was a long time ago.’ (It’s happening, various places, to various people, right now.) And we’re not going to stop it by saying ‘they meant well, we know better now.’ And we’re not going to stop doing it by saying ‘that one example was so bad that nobody should ever compare anything else to it’; or by picking specific bits out of the larger pattern and saying ‘this one bit doesn’t look as bad as this larger piece over there so why make a fuss over it’; or by saying ‘the problem was this specific government, or this specific culture, or this specific religion, or this specific time.’
The problem is us. This is a thing that humans do: we try to destroy the Other.
It’s not the only thing that humans do. (If it were, we wouldn’t be here.) We also defend, and try to learn from, and fall in love with the Other. But it is a thing that humans do, and we’re not going to stop doing it until we’re able to say ‘This is a thing that humans do. And we are humans. It’s horrendous and it’s stupid and it’s wrong. So we need to be damn careful that we don’t do it.’
And in order to stop ourselves from doing it we need to look at every incident we find; look at it hard and face on, and try to put actual faces to it, the best we can: so that we can see and can have jammed into our own faces and our own brains that it’s horrendous and stupid and wrong.
It’s ugly. It’s ugly, quite literally, as hell. We don’t want to look at it. But if we refuse to look at it: we’re going to find ourselves doing it. Over and over and over again.
Not every individual, no. In just about every case we know enough about to be able to tell, there were also people trying to stop it. But no human group is immune.