Impact of Indian Residential Schools on the First People of Canada
The impact of Indian residential schools on the first peoples of Canada
The Impact of Indian residential schools on the first peoples of Canada and how the historical injustices have influenced the present aboriginal community
First nation’s people in Canada are the individuals whom previously were referred to as “Indians”, however, the term is considered to be inaccurate by different individuals. The Early European explorers assumed that they were in India when they arrived in North America, and therefore they called the original inhabitants “Indians”. However, most individuals misnamed “Indians” now prefer to be addressed by First Nations. The First Nation individual associate themselves by the countries from which they come from. One of the terms that include First Nation is “Aboriginal” and its includes the Inuit and Metis people, and in a 2011 survey, it was revealed that around 1,836,035 individuals in Canada had aboriginal ancestry, translating into 5.6 percent of the Canadian Population. The Indian register also reveals that there are approximately 901,053 registered Indians staying in Canada who lives in different community types.
In the essay I will review the agony faced by the first peoples of Canada through the Indian residential school system. I will give a snapshot of the Indian Residential schools on the first peoples of Canada. The paper shall review some of the contentious issues such as being forced to learn only English and French, and how learners could take significant amount of time before being allowed to go back to their ancestral communities.
Canadian Indian Residential School System
The Indian residential school system in Canada comprises of a network of boarding schools that caters for indigenous individuals. The initiative is bankrolled through the Canadian governments department of Indian affairs and managed by Christian churches. The main agenda for developing such facilities was to remove children from their ancient culture comprising of traditions that did not auger with the modern age. Throughout the systems more than 100 year existence, approximately 30 percent of indigenous kids have been placed in residential schools nationally. Due to remoteness of the communities, the residential schools were the only way to comply and these schools were intentionally located at greater distances to minimize on family visits and also through the use of concepts such as the pass system which were meant to confine indigenous individuals to reserves. However, it is widely believed that the long distances taken to reach the institutions or homes discourages family visits hence jeopardizes efforts to civilize indigenous children.
Fournier, S., & Crey, E. (1997). Stolen from Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1615 Venables Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5L 2H1 (cloth: ISBN-55054-117-X, $29.95; paper: ISBN-55054-661-9, $19.95).
The book discusses some of the deliberate policies that were applied to separate and forcibly assimilate Aboriginals First Nations Children has pervaded each era of Aboriginal history in Canada. The publication discusses the silent sufferings experienced by Aboriginal children when they were taken away from their homes and placed in non-aboriginal adoptive families, foster care, or residential schools. Different chapters of the publication focus on specific aspects of the history of Aboriginal children from the period of first European contact to present.
The residential school system played a big role to isolate indigenous kids from their families and to make matter worse, was that these kids were forcefully forced away from their ancestral homes against their wishes. As a result, the kids were constantly subjected into physical and sexual abuse. These kids were also forced to withdraw from their native languages and instead only use English and French not mentioning harsh economic conditions. As a result, the legacy of the system is directly linked to suicide, substance abuse, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress that is prevalent with indigenous populace.
However, parents and guardians of indigenous children have ever since resisted the residential school system. The kids were always hidden away from schools and in most cases hidden away from government officials mandated with rounding kids on reserves. The parents kept pressing the government to increase funding for the institutions and also increasing the number of centrally located day schools to enhances access to their kids educations, and also made persistent requests towards improving the overall condition of such facilities in terms of clothing, food, and education provided at schools. Kids attending the residential school system faced different forms of abuse from both educators and administrators. The kids also suffered from harsh discipline and malnourishment that could not be tolerated under any schooling system, and corporal punishment was considered as the only means to deter runaways, civilize the savage, and to save the souls, whose injuries or death sustained while trying to sneak back home appears as the legal responsibility of the institution. Besides, the institutions were characterized by lack of Medicare, inadequate heating, poor sanitation, and overcrowding which all degenerated into high rates of influenza and tuberculosis. The federal policies that pegged funding on the number of heads admitted only led to sick kids getting enrolled to boost the head count, hence precipitating the spread of the disease.
Neegan, E. (2005). Excuse me: Who are the first peoples of Canada? A historical analysis of Aboriginal education in Canada then and now. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 9(1), 3-15.
The paper gives a historical review on how family visitations were highly discouraged and the best that parents and family members could do was to travel to their kids schools and camp outside to be closer to their kids. Due to increased movements by the parents and the guardians, the administrators of residential institutions began to locate them even more apart to make visitations difficult. The long distance was also encouraged by the fact that learners had to be prevented from returning home during schools holidays due to the belief that trips interrupted the civilizing of school attendees. Besides, the trips for individuals who could make the journey were controlled by the schools officials through a manner similar to concepts adopted by the prison system. In certain cases visitors were denied access to kids while in other families the visitors were required to meet first with the school administration and also should be able to communicate in English, and for parents unable to communicate through English, verbal communication was disallowed hence the parents were forced to make their return journey back.
Courtesy of the Pass System that was introduced, the movement of the indigenous population from the reserves was closely monitored hence prevented from the leaving the reserves through a pass issued by a local Indian agent.
The instruction mechanism administered to the learners followed an institutional and European approach towards education, and it diverged significantly with the conventional knowledge systems reflecting on look, listen, and learn approaches. During school time, most learners lacked contact with their families for period extending up to 10 calendar months mostly due to the distance between the schools and home communities, and even in circumstances could not establish contacts with their families for years. The impact arising from disconnection with their families was exacerbated by the fact these learners were prohibited from communicating through indigenous languages even among themselves outside the classroom so that the da facto English and French languages could be learned.
Elias, B., Mignone, J., Hall, M., Hong, S. P., Hart, L., & Sareen, J. (2012). Trauma and suicide behaviour histories among a Canadian indigenous population: an empirical exploration of the potential role of Canada’s residential school system. Social science & medicine, 74(10), 1560-1569.
Most institutions operated with the vision of providing learners with social skills and vocational training to acquire employment and easily assimilate into the Canadian society after graduation. However, the goals were poorly actualized and inconsistent for that matter and most graduates were unable to secure employment due to the poor training received. When they returned home, the challenges were visible because the graduates were unfamiliar with their environment and culture coupled with the inability to communicate with family members and peers through their traditional language.
Residential mortality were rampant and they were associated with poorly constructed and maintained facilities. However, the actual death numbers remain largely unknown because of inconsistent reporting by the institutions administration coupled with destruction of medical and administrative records in relation to retention and disposition policies for government records. According to statistics from the 1906 annual reports, it was revealed that the Indian population of Canada had a mortality rate exceeding fifty percent that of the population and even in certain provinces the figure could go to as high as 75 percent. Between 1894-1908 in certain residential institutions in Canada, the mortality rates over a five year period ranged 30-60 percent.
Bombay, A., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2014). The intergenerational effects of Indian Residential Schools: Implications for the concept of historical trauma. Transcultural psychiatry, 51(3), 320-338.
The study reviews intergenerational effects of Indian Residential School system in Canada whereby aboriginals kids were coerced prevalent with different forms of neglect and abuse. The residential system continues to undermine the well-being of today’s aboriginal population. The paper suggests that familial Indian residential school system in Canada across different generations in Canadian society are linked with contemporary stressor experience and relatively higher effects of stressors on the society’s well-being.
The article addresses different processes applicable through the experience of trauma in one generation and ca influence subsequent generations, a perspective that appears to resonate with most literatures related to Aboriginal heals including the Aboriginal population living with historical, collective traumas experienced by their ancestors.
Despite the fact that it is critical to identify individual reactions to specific historically traumatic events or periods, there has been less attention dedicated towards interrelated effects of trauma experiences on family dynamics and whole communities. Furthermore, and particularly germane to Aboriginal groups who had endured continuous assaults since the arrival of colonizing groups, research examining individual-level intergenerational effects typically has not considered the larger context in which these traumatic events rest.