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24 November 2016
Residential Schools and the assimilation they attempted was a shameful time in Canadian history. Decades of abuse was covered up and the damage done to first nation people and generations to come was irreparable. In this essay we will examine the history of the Indian Residential school system and the significant impact it had on the near destruction of First Nation values, culture, language, and identity. Children were forcibly taken out of their homes and away from their families. They were punished for speaking their language and practicing their traditions. Often referred to as killing the indian in the child, children were taught their culture of singing, dancing, and ceremony were evil.
More than 200 years before the first Indian Residential School was opened in Brantford Ontario in 1831, there was a missionary school which was established near Quebec City between 1620 and 1629. Numerous deficiencies were reported in regards to student health. It would remain the longest lasting Indian Residential School when it finally closed in 1969 .[Flisfeder, Marc A.]
Reports of children as young as four years of age were taken from their families and placed in institutions that were chronically underfunded, mismanaged, and understaffed. Places that were rampant with disease, malnutrition, poor ventilation, poor heating, neglect, and death. Sexual, emotional, and physical abuse were pervasive and children were denied their language, cultures, families, and even their given names. While some were able to lead productive lives and had positive experiences many were caught between two worlds. Trying to make sense of the trauma of their experiences and trying to get back to the traditional way of life they were forced to reject. These Residential Schools left many abusing alcohol and other substances trapped in cycles of violence, suicide, anger, depression, shame, guilt, and lacking proper parenting skills.
Canada is often perceived as a nation of tolerance and high respect for human rights but fails to consider the injustices and prejudices regarding First Nation people. Injustices are due to residential schools and are being addressed through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Residential Schools had a long and lasting negative impact on First Nation people and their communities. How they came about was through the government's policy of assimilation.
Carney, Robert “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation: The Early Experience” Historical Studies, Vol. 61, 1995, pp. 13-40.
Nagy, Rosemary; Sehdev, Robinder Kaur “Introduction: Residential Schools and Decolonization” Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 04/2012, Volume 27 Issue 1
Bombay Amy Matheson, Kimberly Anisman, Hymie The Intergenerational Effects of Indian Residential Schools: Implications for the Concept of Historical Trauma, Transcultural Psychiatry Vol. 51, No. 3, Historical Trauma, June 2014, pp. 320-338.
Laing, Melanie “Undergraduate Transitional Justice Review”, An Analysis of Canada's Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission Vol. 4, No. 1, 2013, pp. 34-50.
Flisfeder, Marc A. ”A Bridge to Reconciliation: A Critique of the Indian Residential School Truth Commission” International Indigenous Policy Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 2010, pp. 1-25.