What were the residential schools?
The residential school was a system made to assimilate Aboriginals into Canadian culture by enforcing English and adopting them into Christianity. The government thought that they were responsible to educate and care for Aboriginals so they developed a policy called” aggressive assimilation”. Though soon the idea of assimilation was altered.The Canadian government thought if native children were assimilated, First Nations would become successful. Children were put into residential schools because they were the easiest to mould and the easiest to change society, so the Aboriginal culture would diminish. The church-run and government-funded schools officially started in 1892. At the start, there were 1,100 students attending 69 schools across Canada. Soon in 1920, it was mandatory for all native children aged 7-25 to attend one of the residential schools. In 1931, 80 residential schools were run in Canada. Until 1950, parents we then able to choose whether to send their children to a residential school or not. The partnership between the government and churches ended on April 1, 1969. Altogether, 150,00 children were forced to attend the residential schools.
Treatment and Conditions in Residential Schools
The children in those residential schools were treated very poorly. There was a lack of funding which resulted in a lack of food. Students were always hungry and caused them to loose weight. The food wasn’t nutritious , abundant, or appetizing (because they were not used to the food they served). It was not very fair because the staff were served much better food. Activities were segregated by gender, even brother and sisters rarely saw each other. Girls learned sewing, cooking and other domestic skills, while boys were taught blacksmithing, carpentry and auto mechanics. Students were not able to see their parents due to the intentional distance between the school and their communities. Also the students stay at school for 10 months of the year, even if there were breaks, most did not go home because of the long distances. They were allowed to write letters, but were all written in English so parents did not understand their letters. A day of class consisted of half a day of classroom study and half a day of learning a trade. There was no Aboriginal influence and was Christian oriented. If the children were caught speaking their native language they would be punished for they knew language was connected to culture. Abuse was very common in the residential schools. Verbal, mental, physical and sexual abuse all occurred. Death was very common too and not many children survived the residential schools. The after effect of these abuses still continue today.
Effects on Aboriginal People Today
Residential schools created great impacts to the Aboriginals today that have been brought from generations to generations. We can say there are both positive and negative effects, though there are more negative effects. Residential schools left behind a very negative birth of alcoholism, dysfunctional families, along with unhappy and angry people. Those who attended suffered from low-self esteem, alcoholism, physical disorders, violent tendencies and psychological distress (Residential School Syndrome). Because these children were taken away from their parents from a young age, they were not able to learn important parenting skills and cultural traditions. They had to be retaught about their language and culture. Many had dilemmas with their own identity, some learned to hate or deny who they were and some embraced the image of what the state thought they were. Problems of addiction, abuse and neglect of their children where the result of having their childhood model as loneliness, isolation and abuse. These habits are all passed from generations and generations and still continue today. Though, there are some who may have become much stronger because of these incidents happened. They are determined to stand up for their culture and will not let such an event happen again.
In 2007, the government announced a $1.9 billion compensation package , called the Common Experience Payments, for those who were forced to attend residential schools. Only residential school students who were alive as of May 30, 2005 were allowed to collect this money. $10,000 for the first year they attended school and $3,000 for each subsequent year. Also in 2008, Stephan Harper officially apologized to the residential school students.
Lind, Neeta. “Canadian Website Truth and Reconciliation.”Flickr. N.p., 19/06/2010. aaaaaaaaWeb. 1 Apr 2012. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/neeta_lind/4716349018/>.