Residential schools

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*Content warning: the following page deals with violence against Indigenous Peoples*

Residential schools were "an extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches that had the nominal objective of educating Indigenous children but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream white Canadian society." -Eric Hanson, Daniel P. Games, and Alexa Manuel Hanson [1]

The horrors of residential schools

The when and what of residential schools [2]

  • The residential school system operated from the 1880s into the 1990s.
  • The system forcibly separated children from their families for extended periods of time and punished them for acknowledging their Indigenous heritage and culture and for speaking their own languages.
  • Residential schools 'educated' students on prayer and manual labour in agriculture, light industry such as woodworking, and domestic work such as laundry work and sewing. 
  • Former attendees have spoken of abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological. 
  • They are considered a form of genocide due to the intentional attempt from the government and church to eradicate Indigenous cultures and lives.

Who was impacted and how

  • About 150,000 children were estimated to have attended. It is difficult to estimate how many children were murdered due to abuse and neglect while attending these schools. In 1907, medical inspector P.H. Bryce reported that 24% of previously healthy Indigenous children across so-called Canada were dying in residential schools. [3]
  • Anywhere from 47% (on the Peigan Reserve in Alberta) to 75% (from File Hills Boarding School in Saskatchewan) of students discharged from residential schools died shortly after returning home. [4]
  • Over 1000 Indigenous children have been uncovered in unmarked graves across so-called Canada. Conservative estimates suggest that over 15,000 children were killed while attending residential schools. Using Bryce's estimates of 24% mentioned previously, this number would be over 30,000.
  • Those that survived have faced decades of trauma. The effects of residential schools continue to have a significant impact on Indigenous communities. [5]

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