Canada’s History with Cultural Genocide
Canada’s history with cultural genocide traces back to 1831, where the first residential school was declared open. Though the schools have come to an end, the trauma the children suffered whilst attending lives on in the generations after the time of the residential schools. This was Canada’s greatest mistake, a story that has only recently come to light. Many are taking action, raising awareness and fighting for those young children who never got to explore what life had in store for them.
What are residential schools?
Residential schools were a vast network of boarding schools that were created for Indigenous children. The youngest children who have been recorded to attend these schools were at the age of four. These residential schools portrayed higher education for the Indigenous people of Canada, when in truth, their purpose was to eliminate all aspects of Indigenous culture from current and future generations. They rid the children of their languages, culture and sense of family to reach their goal.
How did it begin?
This program started with parents choosing to send their children to the schools because of the promise of higher learning and a chance for their children to have brighter futures. These thoughts were soon diminished when they were not allowed to see their own children for months at a time, let alone have any contact with them. Once the government had even an inkling that this program was working, that Indigenous children were less “savage” and can contribute to society, they no longer asked for them to attend the schools, they took them. The children were taken from their homes and sent to these residential schools till the age of eighteen.
What was it like for those who attended?
The conditions of these residential schools were poor to say the least, they were unsanitary and dangerous at every corner. Many of the children suffered the most abysmal of abuse in their residence at these schools, this abuse ranged from physical to phsycological, sexual abuse was sadly very common as well. Children died of many diseases because of the unsanitary conditions, diseases like smallpox, tuberculosis and influenza just to name a few. The atrocities that these children endured were all because they were forced to participate in a curriculum that’s only purpose was to strip them of their culture. Many children were stashed away in unmarked graves or recorded as “missing”.
What happened to the children after leaving the schools?
Out of the 150,000 Indigenos children that attended these schools, 80,000 survived. The survivors of these residential schools did not just go back home and continue the lives they had before attending. Many of the survivors, as well as their families, suffered from intergenerational trauma, where the mental health challenges can be felt even with present day generations. As many children continued attending and leaving the schools by the age of eighteen, they returned to their communities without knowledge of any tools that can be used in the real world.These residential schools disturbed their thinking to the point where the survivors did not feel welcome in either world. Individually, survivors have met many psychological disorders that range from panic attacks to PTSD. These survivors had little to no feeling of nurturing family experiences and because of this, generations of residential school survivors grapple with residuary trauma.
Presently, the Indigenous community is rising up.They are demanding respect which is long overdue, as well as education, land and resources for the people of their community. Be an ally and assist them in their journey to livelihood. Here at Green School Canada, you have the opportunity to educate yourself about those around you!
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Blog Image Credit: Boston Public Library
Written By Maaya Chander