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Indian Residential Schools “A National Crime”

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Presentation on theme: "Indian Residential Schools “A National Crime”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Indian Residential Schools “A National Crime”

2 Before-and-after photos like these were commonly used by the government to show the “benefits” of attending residential schools.

3 Assimilation Through Education
Starting in the mid-1850s, the governments of Canada and the United States decided that the best way to solve the “Indian problem” was through assimilation The “Indian problem” was the mere fact that Indians existed They were seen as an obstacle to the spread of “civilization” (meaning the spread of European, and later Canadian, economic, social, and political interests) In Canada, this policy of assimilation was partly carried out by the Indian Act The other main method of assimilation would be a series of residential school

4 What were Residential Schools?
Labour skills, Canadian customs and Christianity were taught at church-run, government-funded schools The government felt children were easier to mould than adults, but the key to success was removing them from their native culture Cross Lake Indian Residential School, Manitoba, 1940

5 What were Residential Schools?
Children were kept at boarding schools far away from their families, from the ages of 6 to 15 Residential schools were federally run, under the Department of Indian Affairs Attendance was mandatory and Indian agents were employed by the government to ensure all Native children attended The government hoped they would pass their new, adopted lifestyle on to their children Native traditions would diminish, or completely vanish in a few generations

6 How many schools and students?
From the earliest in the 1840s to the last, which closed in 1996, there were a total of about 130 schools in every territory and province except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick At the peak of the residential school system in 1932, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada

7 Residential Schools in Canada

8 How many schools and students?
Approximately 60% were run by the Catholic Church, the rest were Anglican, Protestant, and Methodist In all, about 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools

9 Pelican Lake Day School
Moose Fort Indian Residential School (opened 1907; closed 1963) Pelican Lake Day School (opened 1911; closed 1973) The Mohawk Institute (opened 1831; closed 1969)

10 What went wrong? First of all, residential schools were established with the assumption that Native culture was inferior and unable to adapt to modern society Children were taught to read and write English or French, and encouraged to adopt Christianity They were discouraged from speaking their Native language or practicing Native traditions If students were caught, they would experience severe punishment

11 What went wrong? Secondly, the conditions in most schools were terrible, with overcrowding and frequent diseases Government spending on residential schools was a fraction of what it dedicated to non-Native education School buildings were often in disrepair, having been constructed in the cheapest manner possible Children received neither proper nutrition or proper clothing Many children also routinely suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse

12 What went wrong? Thousands of children died from disease, malnutrition, neglect, and abuse The death toll ranged from 25% to almost 50% By contrast, the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed millions worldwide had a death rate of 10-20% Many schools had unmarked graves behind them, where these girls and boys were unceremoniously dumped Friends were told they were “gone” and parents were told they got sick and died, without return of their loved ones’ remains

13 Government Indifference
Poor conditions at residential schools were noted by Canadian government officials as early as 1897 In 1907, Dr. P.H. Bryce was hired by the Indian Affairs Department to report on the health conditions of the school system in western Canada His report was never released by the government but was published by Bryce in 1922 as a book, The Story of a National Crime Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, 1899 portrait

14 Government Indifference
Duncan Campbell Scott, the head of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932, said the following in a letter to a B.C. Indian agent: “It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habituating so closely in the residential schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is geared towards a final solution of our Indian Problem.” Duncan Campbell Scott

15 Remember Scott’s earlier quote, from our look at the Indian Act?
“I want to get rid of the Indian problem… Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic…” Duncan Campbell Scott

16 Government Indifference
A letter to the Medical Director of Indian Affairs noted in 1953 that: “…children are not being fed properly to the extent that they are garbaging around in the barns for food that should only be fed to the barn occupants.”

17 The Effects of Residential Schools
There was no assimilation – instead, families and communities were broken Culture, self-identity, and self-esteem were destroyed Students were at the residential schools for 10 months out of the year and rarely had the chance to experience a normal family life Visits were often banned and all letters home from children were written in English (which many parents couldn't read!) During vacations, children were often sent to stay with white families (so that cultural ties were not renewed) Children were not taught parenting skills and had no parental role models to learn from

18 The Effects of Residential Schools
Brothers and sisters at the same school rarely saw each other, as all activities were segregated by gender When students returned to the reserve, they often found they didn't belong They didn't have the skills to help their parents, and became ashamed of their Native heritage The skills taught at the schools were generally substandard and many found it hard to function in an urban setting In 1930, only 3 out of 100 Native children managed to advance past grade 6

19 “Stealing” Native Children
Residential schools weren’t the only way that the Canadian government removed Native children from their families The “60s Scoop” refers to the adoption of Indian and Metis children by white families from the 1960s to the mid–1980s Children were taken from their homes and communities without the knowledge or consent of families and bands The government assumed that Natives were unable to properly care for their own children Indian Affairs statistics show that 11,132 status Indian children were adopted between 1960 and 1990

20 Making Amends In recent decades, the churches and government have offered various statements of regret, condolence, sorrow and/or apology for their roles in administering residential schools 1986: The United Church of Canada 1988: the Minister of Indian Affairs offered the first apology from the Canadian government 1993: The Anglican Church 1994: The Presbyterian Church 2008: The Canadian Government 2009: The Roman Catholic Church

21 Making Amends In 1998, the Canadian government acknowledged abuse at the schools and announced a $350-million program to provide community healing initiatives to deal with the effects of physical and sexual abuse Many people felt the gesture did not go far enough in addressing the impact of federal assimilation policies on Native culture The debate over righting the wrongs of residential schools continues to this day

22 Making Amends In 2007, the Canadian government implemented the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) to provide compensation to the surviving former students of residential schools The agreement was the was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history As of December 2012 a total of $1.62 billion has been paid to ,750 former students (an average of $20,571 per person)

23 Making Amends In 2008, Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and said that “assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm and has no place in our country. We are sorry.” The Canadian apology was limited only to the abuse that Native people endured in the residential school system There was nothing about treaty violations, institutional racism, or any other Native grievances

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