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Truth and Reconciliation: Residential Schools in Canada

Let us acknowledge some privileges we may have, such as the freedom to speak our native languages, to learn and practice our culture, and not be bounded by uniforms and Slavic treatment— these are all blessings to us. While Indigenous children were taken from their families and homes and placed into residential/ Indian schools under Captain Richard Henry Pratt’s philosophy: kill the Indian in him and save the man.

139 Indian residential schools, the first church-run Indian Residential School, opened in 1831. Estimates of over 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children between the ages of 4 and 16, were taken to attend Indian residential schools in Canada and expected to perform manual labour.

 Haunting survivor testimonies described times at these schools.  Andrew Paul, who attended the Aklavik Roman Catholic Residential School in the Northwest Territories, said, “We cried to have something good to eat before we sleep. A lot of the times the food we had was rancid, full of maggots, stink”, while others recounted stories of students digging graves for their classmates, unmarked burials on school grounds, and of children who disappeared in suspicious circumstances.

Indigenous peoples, whose families and lives are haunted by the legacy of Canada’s Indian residential school system, have long expected heart-wrenching revelations, but the news still reopens painful wounds.  The remains of thousands of people, mostly children, have been discovered on the grounds of former residential schools in two Canadian provinces with unmarked graves.  Many succumbed to diseases such as tuberculosis, scrofula, pneumonia, and diseases of poverty, no less and also to neglect and suicide, never returning to their families. 

While the last residential school closed in 1997, leaving Survivors physically free, they may suffer a lost sense of their identity, lower self-esteem and self-worth, and even scarring intergenerationally to the point where they may be incapable of showing love. 

How cruel is it to beat alteration into children? 

Thoughts of this lingering in schools today with false notions of indigenous people being uncivilized and undermining their academic ability are utterly monstrous.


  • Stella
    Posted May 17, 2024 at 8:22 pm

    Truly one of the greatest atrocities in history. Thank you for your thoughtful reflection on this tragedy. Sanctioned by the church and government, the damage is significant and the road forward must be paved with truth, reconciliation and reparations.

    • Nathanw
      Posted May 18, 2024 at 8:32 pm

      The last school closed in 1997??? That’s a mere 25 years ago!!! More needs to be done. I agree with @Stella — truth, reconciliation and reparations.

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