Where are the Children?: An Exhibition for Truth
Where are the Children? is an exhibition which was created to tell the story of the Indigenous people. It was one of many projects developed by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. One of the objectives of this exhibition is to “promote awareness among the Canadian public about residential schools and try to help them to understand the ripple effect those schools have had on Aboriginal life” . Another objective is to use this to bring peace and resolution between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. It is a way to understand what happened and a way for everyone to contribute to the healing of the past. This exhibition has been displayed in many museums, galleries, colleges, centers, etc. all over Canada, since 2001, when it was developed.
The website for this exhibition allows us to gain information on the treatment of the Indigenous people and some truths about the residential schools where they attended. The site is separated into five different sections: Exhibition, Timeline, Stories, Resources, and About; you also have the option of switching from English to French or vice-versa.
In the Exhibition section, you can find pictures and information about the people, the residential schools, and other additional information. In the Timeline section, you can also find information, however dates are attached; in this section, you can find dates, facts, data, and so on. In the Resources section, which is also separated into sections: Reading List, LHF DVD, Where Are The Children Exhibition Catalogue, 100 Years Of Loss- Edu-kit and Teacher Bundle, We Were So Far Away, and Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In the About section, you will be able to find information about where the exhibition is/was being held, when the exhibition was developed, who the curator is, who the Legacy of Hope Foundation is and what they do, and also the partners and funders of the project.
As mentioned above, this website and exhibition is a project developed by the Legacy of Hope Foundation. One of their other projects, Our Stories…Our Strength, is what is displayed in the section Stories of the website (LHF). Our Stories…Our Strength is a project that was developed to ensure that the residential school survivors’ stories and experiences are told and honored. This also supported the survivors through their healing journeys to a better future, it was also a process that could possibly help other survivors as well.
The information about this part of the website is available on the Legacy of Hope Foundation (LHF) website. To collect the testimonies of these survivors, the LHF received funding from Health Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). The LHF worked with many Indigenous communities to organize these gatherings, for the collection of the stories. With these testimonies they set off to educate and create educational resources for all Canadians.
The testimonies were video and audio recorded and were conducted by individual interviews, there were also group discussions lead by the people. This allowed the others to hear stories, different or even similar to theirs. The website wants to help the Indigenous people throughout their journey and to help non-Indigenous people learn more about the past: “It is by sharing these truths that we can all continue to work toward understanding and healing” (Where are the Children). The creators of the website also include an email address for others to send in their stories, or to have their testimonies uploaded to the page.
There are, at this moment, 47 stories that have been uploaded to the page. For every story, there is the full name of the person testifying and the length of the video that appears. What makes it interesting is the fact that they have included the transcript of the discussion/testimony; you can listen to the testimony and read it at the same time. The length of the videos differs immensely, and some even have two parts for their story. In most of the testimonies, the interviewer has them state their full name and spell it to make sure to get the spelling right for the website. They also have them state from which community they come from and what residential school they attended. They also have them state how long they stayed there and then the interviewee will tell them about their experiences. Here is an example of one of the testimonies: http://wherearethechildren.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/45-Carol-Dawson.mp4
This part of the website is very interesting and important because of the fact that these people are taking the time to describe their past and to bring up those experiences when they have probably spent years trying to suppress them from their mind. It is interesting to hear what they have experienced, what they have done to overcome those experiences, and how they have grown from their past. They use their voice to protest against the injustice within the cultural context, these people have put their pride and fears aside to help better the situation and to help the healing and reconciliation process for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
To conclude, this exhibition, this website is a creative, fascinating, and powerful way for the Indigenous people to stand up for themselves and for their communities. The reconciliation and healing process has begun for some, and this website, as accessible as it is, will help others to begin the same process. They can refer to this website and specifically to the section with the testimonies to help them find ways of dealing with their experiences, to help them find ways to surmount their past. Visit http://wherearethechildren.ca or http://www.legacyofhope.ca/projects/ for more information.
LHF: Legacy of Hope Foundation. “Our Stories… Our Strength”. 2016. Web. http://www.legacyofhope.ca/projects/our-stories-our-strength April 3rd 2016.
“Where are the Children”. LHF: Legacy of Hope Foundation. N.d. Web. http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/stories/#story_1 April 3rd 2016.
Where are the Children
This web contribution hopes to inform readers about the content of the timeline section of the Where Are the Children website; the beginning of the education Aboriginal people received, their actual experiences, and what was going on with their people while they were in residential school as well as the outcome of their struggles. It all began with the persistent religious entities that wished to convert Aboriginal people to Christianity. Without having any choice, due to political and economic changes that would have had a long-term impact on their traditional lives and cultures, Aboriginal leaders engaged in negotiations with religious orders and government officials to create an equitable education system. The model desired for this school was questioned a lot. First nation leaders, Peter Jones and John Sunday, as well as Chief Shingwauk introduced concepts but, according to some men who served on the Bagot Commission, they were not sufficient. The authorities believed assimilation would work best if children were separated from their parents and home.
The Indian Act as well as many other signed treaties brought a huge significance in education for Aboriginals. The survival of their identities depended on the acquisition of new skills and so they had to learn specialization in schools. The boys were being taught about farming and girls about housekeeping, but their education mainly turned around separating them from their own people and most importantly, not being Indians themselves. This resulted in the assimilation of Aboriginal children into mainstream culture, largely through punishment, abuse, and emotional damage caused by the residential school system. After many complaints, changes had to be made. It was only numerous years later that a voice was heard. In 1922, Peter Bryce took a step forwards in publishing his entire report about children’s life in residential schools titled The Story of a National Crime: Being a Record of the Health Conditions of the Indians of Canada from 1904 to 1921. Albeit the Indian Act was not going to be the means to end the era of the residential schools; they finally ended in 1996 when the last one was shut down. Survivors from abuse suffered in residential schools are often unable to express their feelings about their experiences today because they may internalize their anger, fear, grief, and guilt.
Being well written with simple words, the website’s author made sure that the accessibility to the timeline section was available for everyone. Not only by writing, setting or refining it, but by sharing their experiences and giving testimonies, many subjects have decided to contribute to this website. I believe that its construction is really well structured. There are two parts to this section; one being interactive, which allows the reader to have easy access to any year desired when looking for precise information. He or she surfs from date to date and discovers the hidden facts when clicking on the years. The other one being titled “Research” provides a continuous and direct version of the information given in the interactive part. It provides the reader with a fast access to what he or she is looking for. The informative paragraphs are short, but well written. Furthermore, they are clear, precise, and concise. One does not have to reach the highest academic level to read its content. The author identifies well the important sections by changing the color and making the titles bigger.
From the first to the last line, everything is told. For whoever wants to learn more about the history of the education of aboriginal people, this timeline tells it all; how it all started, who participated in establishing the schools, what are the types of education offered, who were to go, what was life like being in a residential school, the treaties and acts related to Aboriginal people’s conditions, how it all ended and so much more. The fact that the author provides pictures, uses simple vocabulary as well as emphasizes the important facts of the Aboriginals’ educational history is what makes this website so relevant. Even though this website is quite simple, I believe it would not be hard to lose track while surfing on this website because there is lots of non-relevant information related to the subject. Several dates discuss treaties and acts, which are important and related at some point to the education of Aboriginal people, but which I believe could confuse the readers.
However, even though there is more content than needed, each paragraph pinpoints the main historical facts about the Aboriginal people’s education. Furthermore, what I find most interesting is the fact that the timeline continues until today. Even though the schools have been closed for several years now, the website still provides the readers with testimonies of seven generations from now. Everything read is relevant to one’s general culture. These testimonies are essential to today’s culture; they help to understand and feel what the survivors experienced and make us realize that these schools had a huge impact on Aboriginal culture.
In order to understand today’s generation, one must be aware of their stories. From what I have learned in several of my literature classes, I am aware of the permanent effects Residential schools had on Aboriginal people. What I was not aware of was the fact that the effects of physical and sexual abuse were passed on to the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of Aboriginal people who attended these schools. It did not terrorize only one generation, but also the descendants of this generation. Moreover, learning and reading about the Residential schools was hard because of the many appalling testimonies.
Where Are the Children . 2001. Legacy Of Hope Foundation. 27 03 2016. <http://wherearethechildren.ca/timeline/>.
A Commentary Marie Battiste’s “Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization.”
Tara Hassanalizadeh Shokraei
Marie Battiste is an educator that comes from Potlotek First Nations. She is a powerful speaker and has
done numerous lectures such as “Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization”, “Why Indigenous Humanities? Who gets to be human?”; “Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge: Possibilities, Practices, and Perplexities within Eurocentric Education”; and “What is learning spirit?”. These lectures were presented at different times and places across Canada in order to help raise awareness. In the Mi’kmaw archives, it is stated that “her research interests are in initiating institutional change in the decolonization of education, language and social justice policy and power, anti-oppressive approaches that recognize and affirm the cultural and linguistic diversity of Canada” (“Marie Battiste”). Consequently, we can easily understand why these lectures are so important to her; she wants to mke an impact on the lives of the indigenous people’s children. In a way, she wants to bring back their culture. Hence, this will allow you to grasp the important elements of each of these lectures.
Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization
This lecture was focused on the fact that the indigenous people were obliged to forget about who they were in order to become more like Whites. They were forced into residential schools, where they were controlled by the government impositions and federal policy. It is understood that indigenous people had no choice but to forget their culture, their language, and who they were, in residential schools. These institutions brutally enforced certain patterns of relating and behaving to become like “others” and they were considered inhumane. The speaker explains how they are beginning to understand the actual impact that these powerful people have had on them: “Indigenous humanity is something that is being threatened by globalization, assimilation, education and we are at a place where we realize the deeper cuts”. Sadly, it is obvious that the Natives have been through traumatic abusive situations and they will forever fight for their ancestors as well as for their future generations. Finally, Battiste concludes her lecture by explaining how there is hope and that with the help of numerous people around the world, there is a strong movement that will help create a better future for the Natives: “our efforts have been to deconstruct the critique the Eurocentric humanities and their exclusions and to begin to bring forward as well as reclaim, renew, restore and regenerate the knowledge that are still within our communities”. Battiste confirms that this strong activist movement across Canada and other countries around the world will help raise awareness: a new world with more opportunity for the indigenous people.
Why Indigenous Humanities? Who gets to be Human?
This lecture resembles the previous lecture a lot. Battiste is trying to explain that the Natives are human; they are like everyone else in society and they are trying to make their place in the world. She explains how these people are: “People who are living in a particular place, in a particular environment, trying to survive with the water they have, trying to survive in the land they have, and those are the kinds of survival issues that have always been a part of indigenous peoples’ living”. This shows that they are not bothering anyone in the society, they are not trying to take over society and change their ways: they just want to be heard, understood and respected. Is that too much to ask for? Indigenous people have been brought up in an environment where everyone is “one”, a world where everyone uplifts one another. They fall together and they rise together. Battiste states that Whites should learn from them: “[I]ndigenous people create relationships with one another rather than focusing on the economy making money” (“Why Indigenous Humanities? Who Gets to Be Human?”. There is so much to learn about the Natives and their customs: “their values, honoring water, their land, their animals and being able to bring all of those things that are a part of our everyday survival back into our consciousness so that we can have a future”. All in all, the speaker suggests that after the western education accepted a small portion of indigenous knowledge; more and more people were interested in knowing about their rights, their values, their beliefs and what they have been through. Once the Native culture rises, others will see the amount of things that we can learn from each other and create a better world for the following generations.
Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge: Possibilities, Practices, and Perplexities within Eurocentric Education
Battiste’s lecture about possibilities, practices and perplexities within Eurocentric education helps one acknowledge that if Whites and Natives would cooperate, it could help improve everyone’s well being. For instance, it would enhance equity and it would allow everyone to share responsibilities. The speaker explains how much hope she has about the indigenous people in Canada. She demonstrates her predictions by explaining that there is a burgeoning of aboriginal people. She even mentions that: “currently they are 4% of the community, and that 4% consists of people who are under the age of 29” (“Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge”). Consequentely, by 2017, the percentage will increase immensely. These innocent people are “connected to their lands”. Everything has a spiritual meaning and they see beyond what others choose to see. They could help others create new perspectives and create new horizons for the future generations. Eurocentric people have been ignoring indigenous people because they are afraid of feeling powerless; yet it is crucial to understand that Indigenous people will have a positive impact on the world. Battiste explains that one of the solutions to help indigenous people become more noticeable is by “focusing on the ‘Indigenous students’” and giving less attention to “whiteness, dominance, normalization of status quo, and the complicity with privilege and discrimination” (“Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge”). This will allow people with power to help the minorities surface.
What is learning spirit?
Battiste explains how Natives believe that they are in a continuous learning process. They live and relive in order to become the best versions of themselves. Everything they go through has a purpose. They learn in order to know what to do today, tomorrow or in their next life. The Native speaker also describes that everyone has the support of learning spirits. One simply needs these spiritual guides to help them understand their purpose on earth; all with the objective of “finding inspiration in yourself from within” (“What Is Learning Spirit?”). Indigenous people encouraged these beliefs because when they went into institutions, they were mentally and physically abused and forced to forget about their worth and values. In a way, the colonizers were conditioning them into forgetting their purpose on Earth, which would often lead to suicide or alcohol or drug addiction. The settlers’ motive was to diminish Native culture. Hence, this is why we must remind one another that they should prioritize their spiritual beliefs in order to help themselves recover all of their lost culture and language.
DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: Knowledge as a Key Site for Decolonization.” YouTube.
YouTube, 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
Dr MarcSpooner. “Marie Battiste Regenerating Successes with Indigenous Knowledge.”
YouTube. YouTube, 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: What Is Learning Spirit?” YouTube. YouTube, 2011. Web.
24 Mar. 2016.
DifferentKnowings. “Marie Battiste: Why Indigenous Humanities? Who Gets to Be Human?”
YouTube. YouTube, 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.
“Marie Battiste.” Tepi’ketuek Mi’kmaw Archives. Web.24 Mar.2016.
Inuit and Northern Experiences – TRC
For many years, indigenous people have encountered many difficulties and most of the population of today’s society does not know that much about what happened to their ancestors. Most of us know that they were here long time before us, but have no idea of aboriginals’ experiences. We can see through many books, songs, and poems that the indigenous people have a desire to express what they went through as a community. They write and speak with the use of testimonies in order to support their experiences. We can see their authenticity through their oral discourses. In the following lines, I will focus on the Inuit community and Northern Experiences. First, I will emphasize the role of residential schools at that time and their evolution. Secondly, I will concentrate on abuse that the students had to endure and their allegations, and finally, the Constitution Act and the federal government that helped indigenous people recover their lives.
To start with, the first residential schools were established in the 1840s and the last one closed in 1996 which is not that long ago. The main purpose of the system of industrial schools was to separate children from their parents. In fact, they created that system to reduce the influence of Inuits’ original culture to eventually civilize them. White people wanted to assimilate the children into the dominant Canadian culture: « Forcing them to conform to a new and very foreign place” (117). Moreover, they had to obey authority, and could not express their opinions. In fact, the main idea of residential schools was to make indigenous children forget where they came from and who they really were. It became so usual for them that they came to a mind that it was normal and that they would not even belong to their community. Moreover, students would feel as if they were in the army since it was very strict: “It seems like we walked into the army, it felt totally cold, as if we went to a total alien place. We had to line up and to wear uniforms” (118). In fact, white people wanted Inuit culture to disappear and residential schools were a good way to do so. Some statistics prove that approximately 30% of the native children or about 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada (CBCnews).
At the same time, children in residential schools were not easily assimilated to the Canadian culture. I want to focus on the fact that a lot of them got abused and harshly punished, but mostly on their allegations. When children would resist the authority, disobey, or make mistakes, they would be exposed to physical and sexual abuses by the staff members which I believe is unhuman. Children would be smashed in the face with fists, rulers, belts, etc. until they bleed.”(131) A lady from the Northwest Territory that was sexually abused tells her story: “I was taken from my bed with my mouth covered and it was a fear of telling anyone about the abuse.” (142) Children would also go through physical abuse: “his head forcibly submerged in a bucket of water. I was subjected to physical pain on my hands, fingers repeatedly being whacked with a scissors, my ears were pulled, and knuckle whacked on top of the head, hair was pulled and we were kicked.”(67) Brief, they were exposed to terrible punishment. The most unbelievable and unacceptable thing in those kinds of stories is that the allegations were not raised until the 1990s and even more (142). It must have been a deliberation for them, but at the same time terrible to immerse themselves into those negatives memories. Those allegations should have been settled long time ago.
Fortunately, there was an end to all of this nightmare. In the 1950s, the natural resources in the North territories got the federal government to develop political authority in their communities but also in their territories (88). With those changes, Inuit people have started to gain hope when thinking about the abolition of the mission of residential schools. After years of negotiations, Northwest Territories were the first to be taken into the hands of the federal government which lead to the abolition of the previous educational system (88). “In 1982, the Constitution Act is revised and now recognizes and affirms the rights of the Inuit Indians.” (University of British Columbia). Then, many discussions between survivors, the government and the Canadian public lead to the creation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People which is an institute that helps them in many aspects of their lives (Historica Canada). In 2007, the court recognized all the injuries and damages executed in the Indian residential schools, and gave 2 billion dollars of recompense for the 86,000 people who were separated from their families and forced to attend these schools (Historica Canada). To conclude, “the IRSSA was the largest class action settlement in Canadian history” (Historica Canada).
Personally, I believe that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s publication on The Inuit and Northern Experiencetells the truth about Inuit communities. I liked the way it was written and the use of testimonies from Inuit children gives authenticity to the text. I have read many books about aboriginal people telling their stories as a community and it confirmed to me that children from residential schools went through terrible things and that nobody should or should endure that kind of treatment. It is unbelievable to think of a little child being slapped in the face over and over again, or little girls and boys being sexually abused. Books I have read were only story telling from aboriginal people, but this lecture allowed me to understand their whole story from start to end and how the Government took charge of their cases. However, I believe that it took too much time for the federal Government to realize the problems. But we can say that it ended on a good note. I am happy to see that everything is now under control and that aboriginal people now have social advantages, but it will never replace what they have encountered. I believe everyone should be aware of their ancestors and their story since they were the first on our territories. It is worth knowing the Inuit for who they are and what they did. Their perseverance and courage should inspire us. Whatever the type of struggles they had to overcome, they have always had an internal strength which made all the difference in the way they succeeded and got out of this vicious circle.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Inuit and Northern Experience, McGill-Queen’s University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Chicago, Print.
CBC News, Radio-Canada. A history of residential schools in Canada. March 2008. Web Site.
University of British Columbia. First Nations and Indigenous Studies, Constitution Act. 2009. Web Site.
Historica Canada. Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.2015. Web Site.
Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience
Métis are people who are born to parents of both indigenous and non-indigenous cultures who do not have the status of Indians under the Indian Act. We will see with this summary of The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada the Métis experience in Canada’s residential schools. Métis were admissible in the residential school system at various times because the government considered them as members of the “dangerous class”. Yet, the central goal of those residential sc
hools was to civilize and to assimilate children.
Children were sent to residential schools for many reasons, such as if they were orphans or if crisis struck their families or if parents wanted to educate their children. But the children had more chores to do then being educated. However, residential schools were originally meant only for status Indian children. “Despite shifting government policy on funding and admission, many non-status children attended residential schools”. (p. 11) There were three examples of Métis children who, were sent to residential schools. Madeleine Bird worked more than studied, but she was “proud of the skills she developed at the school” (p.8). Maria Campbell only remembered loneliness and fear of her year there. In 1899, James Gladstone was discharged from the school because of his status issues, but was readmitted a year later after a discussion between Ottawa and the local Indian agent. “This sort of exception became typical in the admission of students from families of mixed ancestry”(p. 14). “The boarding schools were generally church initiatives and received a lower level of federal funding than the industrial schools. As a result, the boarding schools were more likely to admit non-status children” (p. 14). Métis were not welcomed in the industrial schools because both native children and white teachers were racist against them. In 1899, principal Joseph Hugonnard worried that the Métis children “would become a perpetual danger for educated Indians and the community” (p. 15). However, Indian Affairs Minister Clifford Sifton did not agree and he allowed the admission of Métis children to residential schools. Nevertheless, government policy stays contradictory and erratic. For example, the federal government provided limited assistance to the Saint-Paul-des-Métis colony, a residential school for Métis students.
From 1899 to 1937, there were forty years of haphazard policy because Sifton’s memorandum of 1899 “was often cited by Indian Affairs officials as the basis of the departmental policy on this issue. However, the policy was never clear and its implementation was far from consistent.” (p. 21) His policy was not official until 1937. “From the early 1920s until the 1940s, Métis parents faced numerous barriers if they wanted to provide their children with a formal education” (p. 26). Despite this, when the churches had difficulty filling their school, they still accepted Métis students and sometimes they were able to charge parents of mixed descent children a fee. Nevertheless, the government sometimes obliged some schools to discharge children who did not have status. However, some school principals did not want to discharge some of their biggest and best trained children. For example, in 1909, the government did not want to close the Methodist school in Red Deer, Alberta, so they decided “to “wink” at the presence of Métis children in the school” (p. 22). The federal government did not want to pay for the education of non-status students, thus they wanted to minimize Métis in residential schools. They also wanted, without success, to transfer the cost of their education to the provincial government. An Indian Affairs school inspector did not agree with this and he used Sifton’s memorandum in his arguments by saying that without being brought up in their Indian residential schools they will becoming outcasts and menaces to society. But, even if the government tried to stop having half-breed in residential schools, they will fail every time because there were not enough status students to fill schools. However, Métis students knew that they were not supposed to be there and knew that at any moment they could be discharged by the government. Joseph Dion, a teacher in Alberta was frustrated with this whole Métis situation, so with other men they created the Métis Brotherhood of Alberta in the 1930s. This association led to “a Royal Commission in 1934 to study living conditions of Métis in the province.” (p. 28). The government realized that 80 per cent of the Métis children in Alberta did not receive proper education because they were excluded from formal education by the federal government policy itself. Therefore, this commission, finally, “led to the adoption of the Métis Population Betterment Act in 1938.”
Even after this Act, the Métis were still struggling to get educated. “In Manitoba, federal opposition to Métis enrolment in residential schools continued through the 1940s and early 1950s.” (p. 42) Government still wanted Indian and Métis to be in a separate school. However, church leaders still preferred to educate both groups of children under the same school act.
I find this outrageous that just because they were not fully Indians, Métis were expelled from residential schools by the federal government. Even if church leaders agree to give them proper education. Government was ignoring policies by not clearing them to their own advantage. To my point of view, the Indian Act was only to silence First Nations and to have them in control. Therefore, paying for their education was a cost burden. I presume that is why they fought a lot to pay only for native children with status because they had no real interest in them, and even less in “Half-Breeds”.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canada’s Residential Schools: The Métis Experience.
Montréal: McGil-Queen’s University Press. Web. 30 Mar. 2016.
The Legacy of Residential Schools in Canada
In the section “What We Have Learned: The Principles of Truth and Reconciliation” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, a chapter is dedicated to the legacy of residential schools; in other words, the impact that such institutions had, and still have today, on Aboriginal communities. This single chapter is a great way to acknowledge and understand Native peoples’ current living conditions. It gives insight into the reasons why their communities have numerous social, economic and health-care issues. It is indeed separated in those categories, giving each condition in residential schools that led to today’s state of affairs. Although it is now known that the residential schools were not only a failure as the government’s attempt to assimilate the First Nations, or what they said was to integrate them, into a more Canadian culture, but mostly a great mistake in terms of human rights. Today, what happened in those schools is reflected through communities who struggle to keep their culture and identities alive while still trying to be able to live within an imposed way of life.
The first thing approached in the Chapter is the impact of familial separation for long periods of time. Children were mostly taken from their families to be sent to residential schools or, sometimes, parents had to give up their rights and leave their charge to the school. During their time there, children were separated from their siblings and were barely allowed to see their parents, and on those rare occasions where they could, had to be supervised. Adding this factor to the lack of affection and the physical, sexual and psychological abuse, the children had increased chances of growing up not knowing their self-worth and falling into a vicious circle of violence, criminality and/or substance abuse once adult. This created a generation of indigenous people who struggled to take care of their children, and who themselves will have to go through the same spiral. They also explain the important number of children who found themselves in the child welfare system, and still do today, because the same system that destroyed families does not allow them to raise their own children and often places them in non-native families where economic conditions are better.
The second issue addressed in this chapter is the impact of residential schools on education. As previously stated, the government’s attempt to educate Aboriginal children could be interpreted as a complete failure. Their idea of education was through technical and industrial programs where children were, according to authorities, to learn things that would make them more useful to Canadian society, all of which was to be in a religious framework. Of course, the lack of funding aggravated the already poor conditions and so the residential schools became self-sustaining, which meant forced child labor. Inadequate education during a century of residential schools resulted to generations of illiterate Natives and as the report states: “The lack of role models and mentors, insufficient funds for the schools, inadequate teachers, and unsuitable curricula taught in a foreign language contributed to a dismal success rates.” Today, Native communities still lack in resources and, again, this contributes to a destructive cycle: Native people who cannot obtain more social or economical value in a society where education leads to better quality of life and good quality of life; this compromises the opportunity for higher education, and yet this path is part of the most valued and respected one in today’s society. Therefore, Native communities are isolated and left to themselves and according to the report are more inclined to need social assistance. The unemployment rate rises to 60% for Natives living on reserves and no matter what they do, their income is almost always lower than non-Natives.
The third issue addressed is cultural genocide. Through the residential school system, the government admitted trying to wash out the Aboriginal culture by not letting children speak their native language and banishing any kind of related item or celebration of Native culture. This is by far one of the most damaging aspects of residential schools and to some extent, colonization. Language and culture are at the very basis of a society; take them away and there is nothing left to share, especially in a society where oral culture is that crucial. “The schools drove a wedge between children and their parents” because children were taught that their parents’ culture and beliefs were irrelevant hell; in fact, hell awaited them if they practiced them. Native children were taught racism against their own people and how to hate themselves and envy “whites”.
How can a nation go through such torment and hate and be unscathed? If we take a look at their conditions then and now, nothing has changed; Aboriginal communities struggle to adapt to the colonizer, still 500 years later. This second to last chapter of the document paints a good picture of today’s Natives conditions. Most Canadians live with the “lazy Indian” stereotype, which I have grown up hearing. I had heard a few stories here and there on alcoholism and drug abuse, criminality or cigarette traffic, but never had I been educated on why were the First Nations were subject to such stereotypes. Now that I have read and researched more on the matter, which makes me a lot more sensitive to it, I can say that this particular document, and not only “The Legacy” chapter is extremely important if we want to get rid of systemic racism in Canada. A huge part of the reason why Aboriginal communities are put at the bottom of our vertical ethnic mosaic is because of residential schools, which is a part of Canadian history that is never taught, and we can easily imagine why.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Truth and Reconciliation Final Report: “What
We Have Learned: Truth and Reconciliation Principles.” 2015. PDF Digital File.
A summary of a theoretical paper or live lecture or website on indigenous writing or other related issues
Note: In book or website or on-line lecture reviews, you should explain at least three of the main ideas covered, but do not try to cover all the ideas. Be selective. For a website review explain the goals, range, structure, contributors, and academic level or politics of the site, if relevant. After you have described the main ideas/elements in neutral and informative style, you may want to give your own opinion of the work (for example, how informative, accessible, interesting, relevant it is, etc.) and what you learned from it. Book and web reviews should both describe and critique the work. If you find interesting web sources (hyperlinks) or images that are relevant, you can include those as well as informative hyperlinks.
QUESTION 9) An Exhibition http://wherearethechildren.ca/en/exhibition/
The website “Where are the children” is a site presenting an exhibition about the residential schools and how Indigenous children were treated there for many years. This exhibition is mobile, moving from town to town in Canada to acknowledge the history of residential schools. It started on December 2002 in Vancouver and the latest exhibition took place in 2013 in Red Deer College. Even the future venues are announced to give the chance to people to come and see the exhibition. First of all there is a summary of when the residential schools opened and who contributed to this. The site is composed of three main parts which correspond to the main ideas. We find a part called “exhibition” composed of 18 sections. The introduction is composed of two pictures, these pictures represents a little boy, Thomas Moore. In the first picture we can see him before he was taken to the residential school, he is dressed in his traditional clothes. On the other picture we see the same little boy after few years spent in residential school. His clothes are not the same, they are not traditional clothes but clothes that the colonizer imposed on him. This shows how residential schools changed the indigenous people’s way of living. In each section we can find many pictures showing Indigenous people, their houses, residential schools, family pictures, and also a map representing where the residential schools were located. All the sections are in chronological order, from the beginning when Indians were in their own homes and lands to when they had to leave their houses for residential schools and reserves. We can consider this part of the website as a real exhibition because of the many pictures presented and all the little texts explaining what all there pictures represent. It also shows what activities were practiced in class; for example, there are many pictures of classes with the masters or sisters. We can also click on the pictures to open little windows where there are more detailed explanations about the pictures and also the life of the Indigenous people. This is a really detailed exhibition, we can even find architectural plans of the residential schools.
The websites second part is named “TIMELINE”, we can consider this part as a part of the exhibition. In this part we have an explanation for each date, and some of them are completed with a little icture. These dates are from 1615 to 2009. Everything is really easy to understand to everyone, each dates are clearly explained.
The websites third part is called “STORIES”. This is a part where we can find many videos of people talking about their experience in the residential schools. This is really interesting to listen the story of a person who lived there and to understand how the residential schools influenced their lives. What is really important also is that all the people were not in the same residential school, so we can know more about different schools systems.
This website is really accesible to everyone, really easy to use. The interactivity of each parts of the site gives people the will to go further and discover more about the subject. Also we can find easy ways to contact the site’s authors via facebook, or tweeter… everyone could join their pages to share their own ideas or experiences. This is also a way to contribute to the evolution of the website by adding your own experience. What is also really practical is that we can change the language of the website into french, so it is a bilingual website, really accessible to everyone. What makes this exhibition really attractive is that instead of being only a traditional exhibition this is also an exhibition accessible from the net and also from smartphones. People can be in touch with this exhibition through various social networks.
“The Cattle Thief”
Élise Larente Richer
“The Cattle Thief” is a poem written by the Mohawk E. Pauline Johnson. The writer’s father, a well-known Cree chief, and mother, an English woman, influenced her t
o have a different outlook on the relations between the English settlers and the native people. Her narrative poem begins with the description of a chief, the Cree Eagle chief, being a desperate thief. The English settlers are chasing down the chief to kill him; they are looking for revenge for the crime he committed. After tracking him around the prairies, the British men killed the man they were looking for. Wanting to express herself after the death of her father, the daughter of the chief takes his side and questions the actions taken by the British invaders against the Native. After having to endure the situation for a long time, she now expresses herself and she confronts them with what they have done to Natives. She highlights the elements in their history that had made their people what they are now, after the settlers colonized their land. The stronger themes developed in Johnson’s ballad are oppression, deprivation, and hypocrisy.
The relation described by Pauline Johnson in her poem can be interpreted as a cry for better days. She denounces the oppression of her people by the British settlers, signalling that religion was one instrument of oppression: “By a book, to save our souls from the sins you brought in your other hand!” (Johnson, 1895) The daughter of the Eagle chief is putting into words what the men who killed her father did to them over the years to their tribe. The oral tradition is at the center of the indigenous culture. So by verbalizing the acts in the ballad, she brings the facts back to life; she makes the men feel guilty about themselves. “You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though you robbed him first of bread.” (Johnson, 1895). We can feel that the chief’s daughter is taking a little bit of power over them, at last. By expressing herself, she takes oral power. “And the words outleapt from her shrunken lips in the language of the Cree, If you mean to touch that body, you must cut your way through me” (Johnson, 1895). In the poem, there are traces not only of an oppressed population, but also of serious deprivation. Johnson uses certain adjectives to make us understand that her people were being deprived of their indispensable resources: “Over that fleshless, hungry frame, starved to the bone and old; Over that wrinkled, tawny skin, unfed by the warmth of blood. Over those hungry, hollow eyes that glared for the sight of food.” (Johnson, 1895). The last theme observed in the poem, The Cattle Thief, is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is applicable to the British settlers who think they are in charge of their new world and accused the Cree chief of stealing: “Who thieved and raided, and scouted, who rode like a hurricane!” (Johnson, 1895). The settlers are accusing the Indigenous people of the region, when they are the ones who inflicted pain first. “You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though you robbed him first of bread -Robbed him and robbed my people—look there, at that shrunken face, Starved with a hollow hunger, we owe to you and your race!” (Johnson, 1895). By accusing and killing the Indigenous tribes, the settlers are trying to eradicate their problems. They do not want to share the land and resources or make compromises. The chief’s daughter takes the lead by making them realize them went too far and still want more. She is expressing her anger, in part to make sense of this complicated situation.
To conclude, the writer Pauline Johnson offers us a revisionary outlook on the complicated relation that the native population had with the British settlers. The three main themes of “The Cattle Thief” are oppression, deprivation, and hypocrisy, and they are the means that the writer uses to convey her massage to the readers, Indigenous or not. The scenes that Johnson described are filled with realistic descriptions than really bring us back in time. This poem that does not lose its meaning with time and is still a reminder of the historical facts.
Review of Canada’s Residential Schools:
Missing Children and Unmarked Burials
Canada is often viewed as a good place to live. Many people believe there are no major problems here. In fact, Canadians are often seen by other cultures or countries as being too respectful, as being pacifists and as being a country that is willing to do almost anything to accommodate a culture. Furthermore, most of our military missions are perceived to be peace missions. The truth is we have our own problems and we are not as perfect as other countries would think; we too have our dark stories that are untold. One of these stories is about the residential school. It was not until recently that the government of Canada apologized for what happened to Natives who went to a residential school. So, in 2015, the government created a series of volumes called: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. I am going to review Volume 4 called: Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. This volume tries to “record and analyze the deaths at the school, and the presence and condition of student cemeteries, within the regulatory context in which the schools were intended to operate.” For this review, I will summarize what the report says about tuberculosis and I will summarize what they say about the nutrition of the native students.
First of all, the first major cause of death in residential schools was attributed to a disease called tuberculosis. The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – Volume 4 explains what tuberculosis is and how to treat it. This disease is responsible for at least 40% of the deaths, but what is tuberculosis? The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada explains it by saying that it is a contagious disease that targets the lungs. This disease is contagious because a person that is infected by tuberculosis will “expel bacteria when they sneezed, cough, or spit.” (59) So, the cases of tuberculosis were higher in places with poor ventilation system and in places that were overcrowded. In the 19th century, tuberculosis was the major cause of death in North America and in Europe. According to The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: “Adequate diet, ventilation, and care were identified by the 1880s as essential in the care of tubercular patients.” (59). Being unable to provide these three conditions contributed to tuberculosis. In the late 19th century, people who had tuberculosis were often sent to a place called a sanatorium. They were sent there to get a treatment. The treatment varied from one institution to another, but, generally, the treatment included a healthy diet, lots of rest, and fresh air. This kind of treatment did not cure the patient. The treatment was only helping them to get better so they could live normally. In other words, it was used to put the disease in is latent state.
In residential schools, the treatment or the control of the disease was much more complex. According to TRC: “Schools were not prepared to identify and treat sick children, or to prevent infection from spreading to healthy children” (62). In fact, policies that would allow authorities to identify sick students were inexistent or were implemented very slowly. Also, in residential schools, there were few infirmaries and principals were reluctant to follow government policies because they did not have the funds or because they did not want their enrolment to be reduced. These two factors, contributed to the generalization of the disease among students and employees, since the schools were overcrowded and there were no places where they could isolate the students who were ill. Also, most of the time, there was nothing to separate the sick children from the healthy ones; thus, favoring the spread of the disease. After one of his inspections, Dr. F. L. Corbett’s said that: “if the principles of the sanatorium were incorporated in school design, the result would be ‘gratifying’ and tuberculosis would be reduced to a minimum” (64). After this, residential schools decided to have a room for those who were sick, but the conditions in which they were being treated did not help them recover. Finally, when it comes to the tuberculosis crisis, schools and the governments were presented with three choices. The first one was to close the school. The second one was to treat everybody by turning the school into a sanatorium. The last one was to develop a way to identify the ill students before they entered the school. Each of these solutions would have required funding from the government in order to improve the diet, the housing, and the clothing of the students, funding that never happened.
Nutrition in residential schools was mediocre, if not atrocious, and it contributed directly to tuberculosis and other diseases. After all, a good diet with a large quantity of milk was a way to treat and to prevent tuberculosis. The policies regarding nutrition in residential schools were mostly vague and incomplete. For example, a 1910 contract between the government and the church “obliged the school to provide students with subsistence… necessary to their personal comfort and safety” (50). Because of the lack of standards and poor funding, students from the residential schools had to eat poor quality food. In other words, they had a poor diet which contributed to making them ill. Furthermore, the provided food was even limited in quantity. So, it was normal to see hungry students stealing food and getting punished for it. The lack of food was, in many cases, the main reason for students who tried to run away from residential schools. Even some parents did not want to send their children to school if the diet did not improve. According to TRC “Despite the many negatives reports, the government was never prepared to provide the detailed direction needed to improve the diet- in large measure because officials were aware that few improvements could be made without a corresponding improvement in funding” (51). So, what residential school received were advice and no directives. According to TRC, the main reason behind the poor diet that students had was because of the underfunding of residential schools. After all, the government did not have to give a lot of money because residential schools were supposed to be self-sufficient. Furthermore, in the 1930s the government reduced the schools per capita by 15 %, even though the food was getting costlier. Another funding cut happened during the Second World War. These two cuts had a bad impact on the students’ diet. Schools had to use the money they received from the per capita to feed the students. The per capita funding method overcrowded residential schools because the more students they had, the more money they would get. Finally, residential school failed to correctly nourish their students for many decades. So, students had more chances to die from illness and, more specifically, tuberculosis
To conclude, the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is very interesting if you like history and you want to know more about residential schools, but if do not like unchronological structure and dates, this volume might be hard to read. Also, on one hand, it is interesting to know about the governmental reasons behind the bad nutrition and the tuberculosis crisis in residential schools. On the other hand, the poor nutrition was not always due to poor funding. For example, according to ex-students, employees ate very well in some residential schools while the students ate poor food. So, I find it sad that this piece of information was not mentioned once. This made it feel like they purposely omitted some information. Finally, if you have no knowledge about residential schools you will learn a lot, but if you already have a good knowledge on this subject, for example, by reading residential school narratives such as Isabelle Knockwood’s, you will not learn much. Overall, I really enjoyed reading Chapter 2, it gave me a new perspective on residential schools’ problems which is the perception of the government.
Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials http://www.myrobust.com/websites/trcinstitution/File/Reports/Volume_4_Missing_Children_English_Web.pdf McGill Queens University, 2016.