The term Residential schools refer to a variety of institutions that include industrial schools, boarding schools and student residents. European settlers in Canada brought with them the assumption that their own civilization was the greatest of human achievement and all should live like them. They believed that the Aboriginal people, Canada’s first inhabitants, were ignorant, savage and in need of guidance. Beginning in the 1800s, the Canadian federal government partnered with Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, United, and Presbyterian churches to create and operate the residential school system.
1 The schools were set up across the country in an effort to assimilate First Nations people into mainstream society. The assimilation policy started because the Canadian government, stated by the Indian Act, was responsible for providing educational services to Aboriginal children. The schools were funded by the government and operated by the churches. By 1931, the churches were operating 80 residential schools across the country, as well as day schools on some reserves.
2 It was believed that the best way to achieve assimilation success was for the children (aged 4 to 18) to learn English and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs as they were easier to mould than the adults.
There were a total of about 130 schools in every territory and province except Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick from the earliest in the 19th century to the last, which closed in 1996.3 The idea was that the children would grow up and pass their adopted lifestyle on to their children and native traditions would fizzle away.
“Two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture… Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child.”4 Along with enforced separation of young children from their families and communities, residential schooling entailed the deliberate suppression of language and culture, substandard living conditions and second-rate education, and widespread physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse.5 Students were away from their homes for ten months at a time.
The only communication that they had with their families was by letter writing, however, they were only allowed to write in English so therefore their families were unable to read what they were writing to them. They were provided with poor quality food and were separated by gender. Siblings were very unlikely to be placed with each other which also resulted in loss of family value. Students were only allowed to speak English while in the schools, if they were caught speaking their native language they received harsh punishments. It is said that students were only taught up to a grade three level so any hope of them being able to get a good paying job once they were released was very low. They would spend about a third of their day in class and the remainder of their day doing physical work that benefited the schools; girls would do the housekeeping and boys would do the maintenance and farming. This work was involuntary and unpaid. Residential school students did not receive the same education as the general population in the public school system, and the schools were severely underfunded. Teachings focused primarily on practical skills. Girls were primed for domestic service and taught to do laundry, sew, cook, and clean while the boys were taught carpentry, maintenance, and farming.6 By the 1950s it was clear to the government that assimilation was not working and that First Nations cultures were surviving despite all the efforts to destroy them and all the damage that had been done.7 The second phase of assimilation began in the form of Indian Day Schools as residential schools were beginning to close down. The federal government proposed a new policy of integration and the residential schools were slowly replaced by the day schools.8 The main difference between the Residential School and the Indian Day School was that some of the children were not removed from their homes In some cases, residential schools were transformed into student residents and the students attended the nearest public school. In other cases, children were transported from their homes on reserves to adjacent public schools.9 This integration concept was a continuation of government control over the lives of First Nations people. It was introduced with little or no consultation with the parents of the children, the Indian Bands or Organizations. The schools did nothing to accommodate the children of another culture. Many children were bullied and received acts of racism from the non-Aboriginal students and teachers. ——–FIND A QUOTE
During the 1960s and 1970s, parents and Aboriginal groups continued to speak out against the residential school system. However, as the church run schools closed, the provincial and federal child welfare programs expanded.10 Once it became clear to the federal government that colonizing was not working they came up with a new tactic once again. This time they decided to take the children out of their Native homes and place them in the care of non-Aboriginal foster homes. It was thought that this would make it easier to forcibly convert them to Christianity and Euro-centric ways of being, while stripping away their “Indianness”.11 New generations of First Nations children were taken from their families and being abused at the hands of others, with no hope of returning home. It was believed that by disrupting the transmission of cultural beliefs and practices to future generations was the best way to break down First Nations Peoples and make it easier to assimilate them into mainstream society. The beginning of this was done in the name of education through residential schools. The later tool of assimilation was for governments to seize the children under the guise of “protecting them”. The intent was clear and the ongoing effects continue to be devastating.12
Today, there continues to be a large over representation of First Nations children in the custody of the provinces. In fact, there are more First Nations children in foster care today than there were children taken away at the height of the residential schools.13 The Department of Indian Affairs reveals a total of 11 132 status Indian children adopted between the years of 1960 and 1990. It is believed that the actual numbers are much higher than that. While Indian Affairs recorded adoptions of “status” native children, many native children were not recorded as “status” in adoption or foster care records. Of these children who were adopted, 70% were adopted into non-native homes.14 The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCSC) reports that many First Nations children are apprehended due to issues such as poverty and neglect, rather than maltreatment, which is in contrast to non First Nations people’s experience.15 During the last decades of the twentieth century, the remaining residential schools closed down or were transferred to the control of Indian bands. The last band run residential school was the Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan and it closed its door in 1996.16
-closure of last residential school
-long term effects
-residential schools as a social problem – incorporate theory -healing methods – today and for the future
The traumas of physical and sexual abuse, social and emotional dislocation, and cultural loss have manifested, for many survivors and their communities, in after-effects such as substance abuse, violence and family breakdown. Many survivors’ descendants have experienced and continue to experience inter-generational effects as a result of this unresolved trauma. Many survivors, their families and communities have also demonstrated great resilience in seeking help and building networks of support to deal with the effects of residential schools.16 http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2011-76-e.htm
In all, about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools.
The Canadian Residential School system is only one of many forms of oppressive measures that have impacted Aboriginal peoples and are the root cause of many social problems within Aboriginal communities today.
the Canadian residential school system is only one of many forms of oppressive measures that have impacted upon Aboriginal peoples. Therefore it is difficult to separate what form of oppression has caused which impacts. These various forms of oppression exacerbate and intensify each other. Further, rather than tracing the cause of present social conditions of Aboriginal people down to residential schools, most researchers broaden their scope of oppression, going beyond residential schools alone. This paper explores how Aboriginal communities are using Aboriginal healing methods to deal with oppression, colonization and its resulting social conditions, and demonstrates how the emerging body of literature is clearly relevant to our understanding of healing from
Cite this Residential Schools Refer to a Variety of Institutions
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