Indian Residential Schools

As promised, here is a well written article on the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, including the development of government policies, the topography of the residential school system, and an insightful conclusion about the problems of representing this history. A quote from the conclusion puts things into perspective:

“It is important to realize that residential schools were only one symptom of the imbalanced relationship between aboriginal people and the Government of Canada. To address only residential schools, even in a comprehensive manner, is to treat a symptom. Land, languages, cultures, mental and physical health, have all suffered, and continue to suffer, as a result of this broken relationship.” While it may not be “everything” you need to know, it is a good start.

Image: “Looking Unto Jesus.” A class in penmanship at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School, Red Deer, Alberta, ca. 1914 or 1919. United Church of Canada, Archives,93.049P/850N.

Wayne K. Spear

Indian Residential Schools

THE PHRASE “Indian Residential School System” refers to a historical church-state partnership formalized by the Government of Canada in 1892 with an Order-in- Council. Long before the late nineteenth century, many features of this system could be discerned. In the early days of Christian missionary work on the North American continent, beginning around 1600, religious orders established orphanages and schools for Indian children. These initiatives abroad were supported at home by private charitable donations known as subscriptions, and the work of securing the next year’s missionary funding drew the pious again and again back to the salons of high society.

From roughly 1500 to 1800, Europeans and aboriginal peoples regarded one another as distinct nations — in war as allies or foes, in peacetime as trading partners. Soon economic opportunity drew settler populations, and the resulting alliances provided the economic and military benefits of co-operation. By the mid-nineteenth century…

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