The discovery of hundreds of child remains in Kamloops, Brandon and Causess in Canada highlighted the devastation the settlers inflicted on children, families and indigenous communities through the Native American boarding school system.
As a nutrition researcher and Canadian settler, I urge my colleagues to acknowledge and understand the damage that malnutrition and nutritional experimentation have done to Indigenous Peoples and the legacy they left behind.
Easier to assimilate
Ian Mosby, a historian of Canadian food, indigenous health, and settler colonial politics, found that between 1942 and 1952, Canada’s leading nutritional scientists conducted highly unethical studies on 1,300 indigenous people, including 1,000 children, in Cree communities in northern Manitoba and six residential buildings. schools in Canada.
Many were already suffering from malnutrition due to destructive government policies and appalling conditions in boarding schools.
According to the researchers, this made them ideal test subjects.
Frederick Tisdall, known as the co-inventor of Pablum baby food at the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, along with Percy Moore and Lionel Bradley Pett, were the chief architects of the nutrition experiments.
They argued that education and nutrition measures would make Indigenous peoples more profitable assets for Canada, that if Indigenous peoples were healthier, the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis to white people would decrease and assimilation would be easier.
They successfully submitted their nutritional experiment plan to the federal government.
Few calories, nutrients and vitamins.
Tisdall, Moore, and their team based their proposal on results they obtained after they subjected 400 Cree adults and children in northern Manitoba to a series of intrusive tests, including physical exams, x-rays, and blood draws.
Pett and his team’s plan focused on establishing a baseline.
They wanted to give children at the Alberni Indigenous Boarding School so little milk for two years that they were deprived of the calories and nutrients they needed to grow.
Other experiments involved not giving control children essential vitamins and minerals while preventing the Indian Health Service from providing them with dental care on the pretext that this might affect the results of the study.
And even before these experiments, children in Indian boarding schools were starving, as evidenced by reports of severe malnutrition and signs of severe vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Interest in nutritional research skyrocketed in the 1940s after the Canadian Nutrition Council publicly stated that more than 60% of Canadians were nutritionally deficient.
Prior to this, most experiments had been done on animals, but researchers such as Pett, who was the lead author of what later became the Canadian Food Handbook, jumped at the opportunity to use indigenous people as lab rats.
While criminals like Pett often acted under the guise of understanding and helping indigenous peoples, it was clear that these feeding experiments were racially motivated.
The researchers tried to unravel the “root problem”. Moore, Tisdall and their colleagues attributed malnutrition to discriminatory stereotypes such as “carelessness, idleness, hindsight and inertia”.
A. E. Caldwell, director of the Alberni Indian Boarding School, stated that malnutrition was caused by traditional diets and lifestyles, which he also referred to as “idle habits”.
The nutritional experiments, and the grossly inadequate and substandard food fed to the children in these schools, fit perfectly with Caldwell’s mandate of assimilation.
Banning almost all children from proper traditional nutrition is another means of colonization and cultural genocide.
Based on Mosby’s findings, Pett stated that his goal was to better understand the “inevitable” shift away from traditional foods, however Indian boarding schools were specifically set up to achieve this goal.
His research is unethical by today’s standards, and it’s hard to believe it was ever acceptable to experiment on anyone, let alone children, without their consent.
The aftermath of the Holocaust and biomedical experimentation in concentration camps led to the drafting of the Nuremberg Code in 1947, which states that voluntary consent to research is absolutely necessary and that experimentation must avoid unnecessary physical and mental suffering.
The Code was created the same year that Pett began his nutrition experiments at six boarding schools.
Consequences of malnutrition and experimentation
Childhood malnutrition can be fatal, especially when combined with the risk of disease, as was often the case in boarding schools.
The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission indicated that the leading causes of death for children in boarding schools were physical injury, malnutrition, disease, and neglect.
For boarding school survivors, the effects of malnutrition still linger.
Childhood hunger increases the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and research shows that severe malnutrition can even cause epigenetic changes that can be passed down from generation to generation.
It was immoral to experiment on already suffering children.
Food insecurity and nutritional issues in First Nations communities are major concerns in Canada due to boarding schools and colonial policies that continue to this day.
Experiments in these boarding schools and communities have made medical facilities unstable and traumatic for many indigenous peoples and have led many to consider vaccines during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the same time, stigma, violence and racism against indigenous peoples persist in these conditions.
This particular story of malnutrition and nutritional experimentation on indigenous children and adults has been told before. He received media attention in 2013 after Mosby’s investigation.
And this is not surprising for indigenous peoples, whose truth we must finally listen carefully.
*Allison Daniel, PhD in Nutrition, University of Toronto.
*This article was published on The Conversation and reproduced here under a Creative Commons license. Click here to read the original version (in English).
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BBC-NEWS-SRC: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-internacional-57694677, IMPORT DATE: 07/02/2021 13:00:06.