3 Things Non-Aboriginal Canadians Need To Hear About Residential Schools

If you are a non-aboriginal Canadian, you need to hear some things about residential schools. Perhaps you have just heard of residential schools or have even known of them for a long time, but don’t understand why aboriginal people don’t just get over it already. Maybe you even think they deserved it, or that someone was trying to help them. If you are one of these people, you really need to read this blog post.

1. Residential Schools Were an Act of Genocide.

In 1948, prompted by the fact of the Nazi Holocaust, the United Nations gathered and defined various forms of genocide. Canada agreed to accept these definitions within two years, and yet continued to run residential schools for over 40 years after the fact. Cultural genocide is the removal of children from one cultural or ethnic group to be placed in another for the purposes of assimilating them. And that’s exactly what residential schools were — “to kill the Indian in the child” — or, in other words, taking steps to actively bring about the extinction of aboriginal cultures. In fact, the idea that this constitutes a form of genocide was proposed to the international community as early as 1933.

Starting in the 1850s and for well over 100 years in Canada, racially segregated boarding schools — which were sanctioned by the federal government and run by various churches in remote locations throughout the country — took aboriginal children away from their families and far away from their home communities for up to ten years at a time. These boarding schools were a systematically orchestrated attempt to indoctrinate aboriginal children into thinking of themselves as less than fully human because of their race, but they were just one aspect of a greater attempt to completely wipe out all aboriginal cultures by treating them as fundamentally inferior and therefore disposable. Hundreds of thousands of aboriginal children were removed by force and placed in these institutions, and up to a third of them died there. In addition to horrendously abusive racial and cultural brain-washing, many children in residential schools also faced physical battery, sexual abuse, and severe forms of neglect or isolation. Some residential school children were deliberately exposed to life-threatening communicable diseases and others were sexually sterilized. Several residential schools have also recently been publicly implicated in running unethical experiments.

The last residential school in Canada finally closed its doors in 1996. Not 1896. I was entering grade 8 that year, and I’m currently approaching my 30th birthday. It hasn’t even been 20 years.

2. Get Over Yourself.

You are being presented with powerful new information with the very real potential to make immediate but lasting changes to the rest of your life, including the way you look at aboriginal people and your own government. At times, this new information is utterly horrendous. It is often emotionally overwhelming, scary, unbelievable, and deeply unsettling. But unlike the roughly 80,000 residential school survivors currently still around today, you haven’t had to live through it yourself. You’re merely being told this new information. You are not being held to blame for what happened, being asked to apologize for it, or being told that you need to fix it. It is offensively inappropriate to react to being told about this as if you have been personally slighted by it, and it is outrageously wrong to tell anyone to just “get over it”. Get over the fact that you’re being told about it—then maybe we can work on what survivors and their children can do.

I was in high school when I found out about residential schools, and I was immediately shocked, horrified, and angry that this happened, and was even happening in my own lifetime. Had I grown up in a loving home, I probably would have gone straight home and hugged my parents, grateful for the fact that I hadn’t been taken away from them and indoctrinated to be ashamed of who we are and where we come from. But I grew up in an extremely abusive home, and that allowed me very little room to experience anything other than anger over what I had learned. I didn’t know what to do with the anger for a long time, either. And then I had another experience that put it into perspective: I was in my third year in college before I learned for the first time that light has mass. It radically changed everything I thought I knew about the physical universe I interact with every day. And within a couple of years, once I finally took the time to really think about what I had learned about residential schools while I was in high school, it had a similar effect of radically changing the way I view and interact with the very world I live in. Suddenly, I could see direct concrete evidence of racism everywhere, because even the very infrastructure of our society — the roads, bridges, and concrete buildings — are evidence of the forced displacement of aboriginal peoples from their homes, where from their children were stolen and told to be ashamed of who they are and where they come from.

When I found out that the history of residential schools has been deliberately left out of public education curriculum across Canada, I might have overreacted a bit (but is it even possible to “overreact” to the fact that your government committed genocide and teaches you to pretend it never happened?)

3. It Could Have Just as Easily Been You or Your Children Elsewhere.

First of all, Canada is not the only country in recent history to have had these institutions. Similar racially segregated boarding schools for the racial and cultural indoctrination of aboriginal peoples were set up across the United States, in Australia, and in New Zealand, and were all running until fairly recently in history. These schools are one of the products of thousands of years of violence, occupation, and warfare in Europe—much of which ended several centuries ago, with the formation of independent nations, and eventually the formation of the League of Nations (and subsequently the United Nations) to bring representatives together for peaceful negotiations and international conflict resolution (prominent notable failures of “international conflict resolution”, both before and after the formation of international committees, are WWI, WWII, and the Nazi Holocaust). For thousands of years, various European peoples were actively trying to wipe each others’ cultures and languages out in order to establish powerful regimes and empires, many of which are openly acknowledged in our history textbooks today. Our ancestors essentially took that knowledge, refined it, and perpetrated the world’s largest genocide in all of history, starting about 500 years ago with the first contact between colonists and aboriginal people on North American soil. Unlike the current state of most of Europe, much of the structural violence that came to define the relationship between European colonists and aboriginal peoples still persists to this day, and the legacy of residential schools is just one example. If by the same chances that resulted in your birth as a person of non-aboriginal heritage, you had been born into an aboriginal family, it could have just as easily been you or your children who went through residential schools.

Secondly, gender-segregated work houses where girls and women who had been accused of promiscuity were indefinitely detained and condemned to slave labour, for merely showing interest in boys, having premarital sex, or sometimes even for being raped; were also running in several European countries, such as Ireland and Scotland, throughout the same time period as residential schools in Canada and similar racially segregated institutions throughout the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. These Catholic-run work houses in Europe were also notoriously abusive, but unlike residential schools, it was the families of these girls and women who were voluntarily incarcerating them, because they believed it was congruent with the culture they were raised in that these girls and women were forced to work off their transgressions. Gays and lesbians have also faced horrendous institutional abuses throughout recent North American history, as same-sex love was still criminalized in Canada until 1969; and was still classified and treated as a mental illness analogous to pedophilia, all across the continent until 1973. Many religious institutions called “straight camps” are still running throughout Canada and the United States, in which gay and lesbian children and adults are brain-washed into being ashamed of who they are and who they love in order to “correct” them into becoming straight, and despite how unethical this is, it’s still completely legal.

And finally, but perhaps most importantly, a vast majority of aboriginal peoples today are of mixed ancestry, having descended from ancestors of both aboriginal and European, Asian and/or African heritage. There’s actually a chance that some of the aboriginal people you meet could be your distant family members, or share part of your ethnic heritage, and you might not even know it yet.

124 thoughts on “3 Things Non-Aboriginal Canadians Need To Hear About Residential Schools

  1. There is still a type of residential school in Canada. I know of two situations. In Thunder Bay, Ontario the northern First Nations come down and billet out at homes and go to an all Native school. These homes are not all they should be. Who is regulating that?

    In Cranberry Portage, Manitoba there is still an all Native boarding school full of northern Manitoba First Nation kids.

    • It’s my understanding that there may still be similar schools running in the states as well.

      It’s also my belief that putting aboriginal children into foster care with non-aboriginal parents (I.e., the very prominently reputed “sixties scoop”), or keeping them in the custody of child care services, is continuing the same legacy.

      However, in light of the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission events here in BC, and in light of the audience I chose to address in the piece of writing, I made the decision to keep the focus of this narrative quite narrow.

      It’s a difficult compromise to make, but I am nevertheless grateful for your comment for those reasons. Thank you.

      • I appreciate your piece very much. And thank you for acknowledging the trials of children of resiential school survivors.

        Modern-day social services is a legacy that continues to affect Canadian Aboriginal children, for certain. I was a child put into Care during the scoop (in the seventies). I can appreciate that you kept the scope narrow, but this doesn`t even touch on the cycles of abuse rampant in most FN communities, even decades after the schools closed. When abuse (physical, psychological, and sexual) is modelled for children, most of us can concede that that is what the child learns.

        I never attended a day at one of these schools, yet I was still profoundly (and adversely) affected. So I can`t help but take it personal when I hear the ignorant statement `Just get over it`
        There are so many non-aboriginal people that are judgemental towards First Nations communities and their stuggle with maladies from these school, like say alcoholism. If they were like my father, taken at age four and sexually ravaged for years, then it seems forgivable that he felt he had to hide from his demons in a bottle. He has been 16 years sober, but I know he was judged for his path.

        In light of this week`s TRC National BC event, thank you again for sharing these words!

        Tlecko Tlecko

        • Thank you as well for sharing — I mentioned the scoop and foster care/child care in the second comment on this thread but can see how long the comments section has already gotten, so it might be easily overlooked by others. Thank you for emphasizing that point again.

          One of the things Idle No More BC would like to tell directly to the TRC is that workshops are needed in aboriginal communities, to help people understand and overcome the lateral violence in their communities, and that workshops engaging non-aboriginal Canadians to become educated about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples are also a critical step towards reconciliation. Having experienced a great deal of violence myself, I can only describe it as being dragged across the coals to experience it from someone who shares my experience of marginalization.

          I raise my hands up to you for sharing your perspective here. Hytch’ka!

        • it is an ignorant statement ” get over it” Did you know that it has taken me a Survivor of the schools almost twenty three years to get over this and furthermore I will be healing until I am on the wrong side of the grass.I also drowned my syndrome in a bottle, alas it did not work so I said two words to myself ” I Quit” and that was twenty seven years ago.
          I was taken at age five to Lejac residential school and went to “school” for ten years and learned nothing.

          • I don’t know about you, but one of my elders who attended three of these institutions was taught several things:

            1) the only acceptable forms of sex are pedophilia, rape, and procreation
            2) when someone pats you on the back, they are looking for a soft spot to shove the knife in
            3) the only acceptable form of emotion one can exhibit in front of another person is in the form of a clenched fist

            • in any residential school in canada(a) we were trained and conditioned to obey without queston
              (b) then came the the toxic shame, and emotional starvation, and from this you had boys and
              girls as pliable as you can get, subjected to mental and physical abuse the children simply suffered in silence.

      • Why is everything Genocide? it was not a genocide, The students were not put to death in gas chambers, or lined up and shot. The aim I believe was Cultural destruction. This is horrible, and I would agree that a lot of physiological, physical, and sexual damage was done, If the children who were involved cannot get over it. time will put this issue to sleep, as it has erased the trauma of other atrocities.

        • I can’t and won’t answer your question because it is disingenuous. The United Nations defines genocide in many more ways than the very simplistic and extreme standards by which you seek to rule out everything but Nazi death camps. I agree with this international standard for human rights, but also align my politics in a significantly more radical vector. What I’ve stated in this article is tame compared to what needs to be said.

          Time alone will do nothing to heal these wounds if the right of indigenous peoples to speak the truth and exist without the constant threat of assimilation and annihilation is not honoured by the rest of the society that lives in their traditional territories.

        • It is my belief that is was genocide. I have heard stories from Elders about children being killed in residential school and known small pox blankets being given to First Nations communities. That is genocide!

          Also, time will not put this issue to sleep as that ignores generational trauma in which recent research shows that generation after generation will be impacted by the residential school system.

          It is important that we continue to talk about this history…we need to remember to know how to help our people in the present, and we need to remember so that nothing like this ever happens again to any other cultural group.

          Thank you for writing about this….you are helping us remember..!!

          Huy ch q’u!!!

        • I wondered about genocide, because I heard from so many people that as a child they used to wonder why when a child was sick, why did the nuns put two well children on either side of them and make them sleep there. The beds were single beds, and all the children had their own beds. the nuns made a point of it. This was in the sixties and seventies, as they were about my age. I am Inuit, and the diseases hit the Inuit in the sixties and the seventies especially hard. They died in great numbers. I wondered if the nuns were trying to lighten their load, or if they had an informal agreement with the federal government. Remember, land can’t be taken unless there is no one living on it. This is what also resulted in the RCMP shooting all the dogs so the Inuit were forced by starvation to live in towns. They methodically each dog of each Inuit family’s dog teams. Then oil and gas exploration is possible, and land can be freed up for the use of the crown in whatever way they see fit. Gina

    • Good grief, you don’t know of what you speak. I’m from Thunder Bay and know the First Nations leaders here. That all Native school has a Native principal, counsellors and elders, and while not all the teachers are Native and there are some white staff there, this is not a result of colonization by white folks. This is a product of self-determination by Native people. The purpose of this school is to address the needs and interests specific to the northern First Nations youth, with traditional teachings, supports for living in an unfamiliar urban setting, and a different cultural vibe you don’t find in the other high schools in the city.
      No, the homes are unfortunately not all they should be because of a lack of appropriate housing but it’s regulated by the First Nations leadership and they are doing the best they can and currently working on a project for that.

      Let’s keep talking about the Sixties Scoop. Let’s keep talking about residential schooling. Let’s keep talking about the underlying assumption that Western epistemology and views are best. But don’t peg something as something it’s not or you are robbing those of credit due.

      • Thank you for sharing your insight and perspective, as I think it is an important one. I’m not sure to whom you were replying, but something in my gut was certainly telling me that calling something a residential school when it is not is just inappropriate. Not being from around that part of the country, I felt I couldn’t be sure if what was being shared was accurate, so thank you for bringing that to everyone’s attention.

        I do think that it is fundamentally important that indigenous peoples are able to determine the course of their own children’s education, and I’m glad to hear that this is happening in some communities.

    • i’m not sure of the school in ThunderBay, but please get your facts in order regarding the school in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba, This is not a all native boarding school, but a mixed school with students of all races from communities throughout Manitoba that do not have a high school. I myself attended this school ( lived in the residence)from 1978 to 1980, and am of German descent with no native heritage. There where and are still many students there to this day that are not Native. PLEASE STOP SPREADING MISINFORMATION

    • I live in Cranberry Portage. I see these kids come from all over northern Manitoba to attend high school. The school is operated in a former Cold War radar site that was decommissioned in the 60’s. There is no religious component as this school is not run by the churches, but rather by the school division which in turn receives its funding from each respective band. Is it a perfect system? Of course not. But it’s much better than dropping out and wandering the streets of Shamattawa or Tadoule Lake with no future.

    • The sixties scoop, and social work in general, is essentially an extension of the assimilation process. The intergenerational trauma that resulted from this is unbelievable.

  2. thanks for this piece of writing – one detail to correct is that the United Nations was formed as an outcome of world war II; it was derived from the League of Nations, which was formed as an outcome of world war I. Nonetheless, I agree that the UN and its member states has utterly failed to resolve international conflicts in many, many instances since world war II, most of them involving oil interests and the USA.

    • Thank you for the correction. I’ll have to rearrange that sentence a bit, I think.

      I see the United Nations as offering a lot of solutions but generally doing nothing to act on them. Clearly the several acts of ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide the world has been witness to (e.g., Bosnia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and currently Palestine), even just in my lifetime, are examples of this.

    • Do the research on the UN and you will find they are a branch of the Illuminati/Freemason Societies and the UN was formed years ago in their plan to bring in a One World Order. There whole plan is to take away the rights and freedoms of everyone. Almost every leader of every country is in some way involved in either freemasonry or the Illuminati, including our own Stephan Harper and past Prime Ministers. There is way more to this than many of you will ever believe. I am a non-native and have several native friends and what the white man did to the native people was terrible. One of the first things was giving them alcohol. Living very close to a four nations reserve, I see the racial attacks on my native brothers and sisters in my city and I find it offensive and disgusting, especially when the white man is mostly to blame for the situation they are in. I personally won’t stand to hear such rudeness and my children were brought up the same way. At least in this day most of our children don’t see race as a problem. What has happened to the native people was definitely and act of genocide by every definition.

  3. so far you said not much about your topic. you alluded to some of it. then rambled off to europe and other such. if you want a true story of what happened in residential schools talk to a survivor who is willing to talk and share.

    • I in fact actively encourage people to participate in the reconciliation process with survivors (those who are willing to share this part of their history, anyway — that is certainly not every survivor still alive today, and far from it, actually, for many reasons).

      However, I think you underestimate the desire of someone who thinks they should just “get over it”, to listen at all. That is the audience to whom this blog post is written to address (that is right at the top of the post). These are people who fail to see themselves in the survivors they are so abruptly dictating to on how they should feel.

      The entire purpose of this very short piece of writing is to frame the issue in a way that those people can directly relate to what happened instead of dismissing it or continuing to ignore it, as so many people do—even famous white people who have endured similar conditions themselves in Europe and don’t allow themselves to feel anything about it, and so dictate to everyone else how they should feel (or not) too. If this piece of writing does not resonate with you, it is not likely due to its brevity.

  4. While your point about the residential schools being left out of Canadian school curriculum may well be correct, I think it is worth noting that when I was in high school, (Calgary, late 90s) we spent quite a bit of time talking about the residential schools. While I don’t remember the phrase “cultural genocide”, I don’t think they glossed over too much: I remember talking about the sex abuse, and the fatality rates, and at least mentioning the medical experimentation.

      • I was also taught about residential schools in-depth during high school, in more than one course, and in more than one school. I attended one high school from 9-11 and a separate one in 12, and was told about residential schools in three different classes. This was in Ontario, between 06 and 2010.

        Do you have a source to cite regarding it’s removal from the cirriculum? I’m curious to see what it actually states.

        • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada itself released a report containing findings and proposed solutions, in which it was plainly stated that the instruction you and I each received (in addition to one other commenter) is not standardized. Public education curriculum is regulated by the ministry of education (or some similarly named department of the federal government), and they have been advised that the history of residential schools in Canada needs to actually become incorporated into public education as a part of standard curriculum.

          I meet people every week who dispute whether or not cultural genocide is reeeeally a form of genocide, who have heard of residential schools but think there are no survivors who experienced them directly currently among the living (there are about 80,000 still living today), or think that the residential schools all closed in the 60s.

          I also meet people every week who know about residential schools and acknowledge how long they persisted, but do not acknowledge the full scale of the injustice involved, or the fact that no entity or institution has ever been held accountable for it.

          Imagine my frustration as a person whose extended family includes several survivors and their children.

          • I’m not challenging whether or not there is ignorance on the subject. I’m not really trying to challenge anything you have said at all really, I just wanted to read where it said it is being intentionally kept out of the curriculum with my own eyes. Where can I find this report?

            All you have said in the above statement is that it should be in the curriculum, but not whether it’s actually been found that there is an intent to keep it out on purpose, in an attempt to erase it from history, as you have suggested. If that is indeed what is happening, then I would like to see.

            I am well aware of the effect this silencing would have on survivors and their families.

            All I am saying is that there is a big difference between not specifically stating in the curriculum that it is a requirement, and specifically stating that it is not to be taught in a public school setting in a deliberate attempt to cover it up. Again, I’m not accusing you of making this up, I would just like to see this troubling information, or be pointed in the right direction in case I misunderstood what you said.

            • You have a dramatically different relationship to the same government than I do.

              Download link contained in this entry:

              Please let it sink in that Justice Sinclair himself flip flopped on national news, as to whether or not residential schools are an act of genocide, while openly declaring that they are by international law. There most certainly is a malicious intent to sweep this dark history of Canada under the rug. It is a well-established fact that there are also documents being withheld from the TRC, pertaining to residential schools and the abuses suffered therein by many. For crying out loud, residential school survivors had to sue just to be heard, and the man appointed to stand for them silences them again on national television.

              From page 7:


              There is a need to increase public awareness and understanding of the history of residential schools. This will require comprehensive public-awareness efforts by the federal government and in-school educational efforts by provincial and territorial governments and educational institutions.


              4) The Commission recommends that each provincial and territorial government undertake a review of the curriculum materials currently in use in public schools to assess what, if anything, they teach about residential schools.

              5) The Commission recommends that provincial and territorial departments of education work in concert with the Commission to develop age-appropriate educational materials about residential schools for use in public schools.

              6) The Commission recommends that each provincial and territorial government work with the Commission to develop public-education campaigns to inform the general public about the history and impact of residential schools in their respective jurisdiction.

              …call me a skeptic, but the phrase “if any” tells me loud and clear that there is no standard at the federal level to teach anything about this history. It doesn’t take much of a leap to determine that this is a decision made in bad faith. There is no reason to believe in the good intentions and “good faith” of a government that had to be sued for any of this to come out into the open — the very same government that continued to operate these schools for 40 years after agreeing with the international community that this was a form of genocide, and which now incarcerates more children of aboriginal heritage in the custody of child care than there were in the sixties during the so-called sixties scoop.

              • Firstly, I don’t see where I said that I love and absolutely trust the government we are under. I merely asked you for more information to back up the claims you were making.

                I was also not arguing about the use of the term genocide, and I don’t understand that that is relevant information to my question.

                Furthermore, there is no standard at the federal level for any subject as far as specific subjects to be taught in Canadian public schools, as decisions about what is put on the curriculum lie under provincial jurisdiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Canada

                You will also notice that under each of their recommendations they do not mention the federal government, but “each province and territory”.

                Listing other current injustices against the Aboriginal communities within Canada, does not mean we should assume that there is currently a massive cover-up operation. I am not challenging you on any other point but that there is currently a massive scheme to erase it from history. That ship has sailed. They cannot erase it from history if it is all over the internet, and further, the term “residential school” is mentioned in the current Ontario curriculum about a dozen times. (pages 113,115, 122, 125, 126, 131, 133, 134, 139, 141, 142, and 183) http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/canworld910curr2013.pdf

                Again, as you seem to have assumed, I am not defending the government, or their past or even present choices. I am asking for actual evidence of a deliberate, current attempt to cover this up, and so far you have just sent me to a page outlining that they think there should be more education on the subject, and then asking me to assume that meant a cover up, based on there not being a special place for residential schools in the federal government’s non-existent hand in creating the curriculum for each province and territory.

                You also seem to assume that because I am questioning the integrity of this point of your argument that I am questioning the integrity of your entire argument, which is not the case.

                I am not calling you a skeptic, I am presenting the side of the skeptic, as I will not believe every point made in your article without doing my research any more than I will believe anything anyone else says blindly, including the government.

                • OK. If you want to start wildly exaggerating the sentiments behind my words, have fun. I’m done engaging with you any further. Just something for you to keep in mind:

                  The manner in which you are framing your questions and your skepticism towards the mere idea that the government is not being honest with the public suggests you believe the government over the survivors. I can’t be bothered to play hotline with you or your implicitly hateful ideas.

                • U don’t know n e thing will nvr know n e thing because u are arrogant n only see one side of the story!! But I guess that’s normal for most of Canada that trust in “their” awesome ppl killing government! N by saying u r not arguing or assumed, u r, u stated it!!! Ppl like u r just a one track mind n need to explore n actually feel n see what happened! Plain irritating pfft trusting government LOL

              • hi, i had seen the reports of the TRC Chair, Murray Sinclair, having said that it was genocide, and then heard something about him taking back those remarks … so i asked him about it more recently (this past April). here is the video, it’s near the end where i ask him about if it was genocide, and he clearly states it was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y8g7kf5j3A

                also, just to point out from at the start of point #1, “Canada agreed to accept these definitions [of Genocide] within two years” … there are 5 different ways to commit genocide in the int’l definition, and from what i have heard (never fact checked it, but…) Canada initially adopted only 3 of the 5 parts of the definition into Cdn law … and since then has removed one of those parts, so that in canadian law only 2 of the 5 internationally recognized methods of genocide are deemed illegal. might want to check out that a bit more, i haven’t, but trust the source of that info (Ward Churchill) … and also i don’t think it is referred to as ‘cultural genocide’ in the int’l definition, instead all 5 forms of genocide are deemed equally valid forms of what constitutes ‘genocide’, no qualifiers needed

                • Specifying the means doesn’t diminish the quality or magnitude at all, but I certainly have heard of Canada’s conspicuously narrower definition of genocide. After all, I think I’ve done more than my fair share to point out this incongruency.

                  One thing I have a major problem with is that Sinclair’s denial reached a significantly larger platform than any retraction he’s made since. The fact that the word genocide was conspicuously absent from anything he said in his own words at the BC National Event for the TRC is just rubbing salt in it.

              • Hello, LOVED this post!! I’m a teacher on a reserve and have often asked to discuss residential schools to my kids, as many of them don’t even know much about them. The reason? It’s not a topic that many of their families (some of them survivors) wish to discuss. Because it hasn’t been part of the elementary curriculum, I’ve have to be VERY careful what I say. However, this year marked a change to the Grade 6 Social Studies curriculum where residential schools are FINALLY being introduced. It’s about time.

                • Hi and thank you. I am glad to hear of the breaking down of one more barrier through public education. Certainly some of the survivors I know are unwilling to engage their own experience because of how traumatic it was, and because it is not congruent with their own needs for healing to keel reopening that chapter of their own lives.

                  So far as I know, until changes like what you have pointed out are made all across the country, it is entirely up to the whim of individual schools and teachers to teach this part of history or not. That needs to change on a national scale.

        • It is great to hear that some provinces provide some information as part of their studies. growing up in Saskatchewan and living in Alberta where my 3 sons went to school there was no mention of residential schools at all. Because I have been involved with native culture most of my adult life I have seen the results of the residential school system. I have also seen the discrimination of students who are aboriginal coming into the public school system…not only in the 60’s and 70″s when I was in school but also in the recent past both when my sons were in school and while I worked in the system. It was simply horrific. If more persons were empathetic to what was happening maybe today we wouldn’t see our correctional institutions over run by aboriginal inmates. As a mother I can not imagine having my child taken from me at 4 or 5 years of age and being able to see them for years at a ti me, or being a child being uprooted from their parents….Walk a mile in the moccasins of the people who lived through this and maybe..us whities would able able to show compassion.

    • I attended school in BC in the 80s and 90s and remember learning about residential schools in the context that you mentioned as well. The BC provincial government has a document to assist teachers in accessing aboriginal content to meet prescribed learning outcomes: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/abed/shared.pdf It specifically offers advice in dealing with sensitive and controversial topics, such as residential schools. “Far West” is another resource from the BC ministry of education to use in Language Arts and Social Studies for grades 4 to 9. Chapter 8 covers residential schools: http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/program_delivery/ss_storyofbc_teacherguide.pdf There is also a grade 12 Social Studies course, BC First Nations Studies 12, that has specific prescribed learning outcomes and indicators that address residential schools.

      It is positive to note that in Saskatchewan (where I now live) that there are required Treaty Education outcomes for every grade level. While the grade 8 outcomes specifically discuss residential schools, the horror of the residential school and it’s legacy are often explored at all grade levels to meet the Treaty outcomes. Treaty education is mandatory in all subjects in all grade levels K through 12 in Saskatchewan. In the curriculum documents for each subject you will find an outcome related to First Nations, Inuit, and Metis history, ways of knowing, stories, etc.

  5. Pingback: 4 Things Non-Aboriginal Canadians Need To Know About The Indian Act | HaifischGeweint

  6. Are you aware of Russian-speaking, Doukhobor children being separated from their families & locked up for years during the 50’s in New Denver? They were not allowed to speak their language & were physically & psychologically abused.

    • I was not aware of that, and it is good to point that out. So far all I am aware of that runs alon those lines is historically a vague notion of persecution of Eastern Europeans in this country (Canada) and possibly in the states too. As I am not connected to my ancestral cultures (several Slavic nations included therein), I am often disconnected from this kind of information until someone else brings it to light. Thank you.

    • Exactly! Our people suffered the exact same cultural-genocide treatment. We are hard-working though and are collectively demanding a simple apology. No special status, no extra money when we file our taxes, no land. We aren’t just out to take-take-take from the rest of the general population. We prefer to give and not make everything an us/them issue.

      Finally getting that apology would sure be nice though :-)
      Demanding anything else is a slippery slope that leads a people into lazy dependence. I am so glad we never took this route, despite the immeasurable harm that stealing our children did to our nation.

      • Maxim 4, are you implying what I think you are implying?? That “Your People” are hard-working and Natives aren’t? That Natives ask for things they aren’t “entitled” to such as special status, extra money, and OMG, land?? That Natives are just out to “take-take-take” from the rest of Canada?? That Natives are the only ones who make everything an Us/Them issue?? That Natives are lazy and dependent?? Wow… you are unbelievable.

        • Agreed.

          The only reason I have hesitated to reply at all is because this individual’s legitimate claims, which I can only assume without his voluntarily specifying otherwise refers to white ethnic groups who were systematically denied the privileges of being considered white (and whose children were also removed from their home communities, though not nearly in the same scale, for the same reasons, or for the same length of time), are tangled with so much racism that I honestly couldn’t find the energy to attempt to untangle it.

      • actually, the doukhobour situation is nothing at all like the indigenous situation.

        1.) you can pass as white, so you can actually assimilate to the dominant white society & enjoy the perks and benefits of assimilating to it, ie escaping racism based on phenotype & reaping the benefits of white skin privilege which include economic access to jobs, loans, ability to create businesses all of which indigenous people were legally (and illegally) barred from;

        2.) treaty status is not “special” status in the sense you are implying, ie an undeserved status. treaty rights derive from TREATIES made betwen first nations and the crown. they are contracts unique to nation-nation relationships. YOU get an entire country and national identity out of the treaties and FN are supposed to get IN PERPETUITY as per the terms of the contract, certain benefits called treaty benefits. as with any contract in the history of contracts, its an exchange that is NORMAL to contractual agreements; nothing special about it at all.

        3.) the vast majority of immigrants like your family CHOSE to immigrate to “canada”, chose to become “canadians”, and chose to engage in learning the dominant colonial language (british english in the west)….FN people never chose any of what was done to them.

        4.) you continue to get to enjoy a quality of life FN do not because of your white skin privilege, which affords you a continued level of access to social power that FN still do not have.

        5.) your community is not on the verge of being genocided…your original languages are still viable. your whiteness protects you in ways that FN people will never experience.

        6.) FN people are the hardest working people i know with a long long tradition of hard work. you cant survive on the prairie for generation after generation in -50 winters if you are not hard working. you cant continue to survive in a racially hostile society where every white person is automatically given a hand up only because they are white if you are not hard working. every FN person you see who is “successful” in the white world is someone who has had to work 1000 times harder than you ever will or have ever had to.

  7. For anyone who thinks that Natives need to “get over it already” should watch this movie. It’s the story of two Residential School Survivors and their experiences. It’s very tragic but it gives an insight into what many children went through during this act of genocide.


  8. Beautifully explained from an outside perspective. As a First Nation man, I too was filled with anger over what I learned about the history of my ancestral lands. What happened to my relatives, the land, water, the 4-legged and our medicines. I questioned why we are not educating truth to prevent it from every happening again, much like a parent tries to save their child from making the same mistakes they have in life.

    There are more survivors then documented, more then 2/3’s who came forward where disqualified due to government restriction on who is and who isn’t a survivor. Much like the Indian Act today still tells us who is and who isn’t a descendant of our own blood.

    We are far from a complete truth being told, but it coming forward. I can only hope this truth begins to transform people into the civilized societies they stated they are from.

    Keep speaking my friends, the silence is still killing us.

    • I have also heard people talking about the exclusion of many survivors’ voices from the TRC’s data set. I support the work that is being done in principle, because I have compassion for the survivors who have so far been willing to revisit this part of their lives. But I do not trust that the TRC is actually going to accomplish much meaningful change, as at the top of the chain, there is still the federal government.

      I really think the only way to start seeing the changes that need to happen is with the people — not their government.

  9. Good article. I don’t like to read n I continued on with it, but ppl that comment and act like they know stuff is really irritating n yet they know nothing. Thx for the good read

    • Thank you for taking the time — I did my best to be unusually concise so that I could reach as many people as possible. Speaking the truth is the most radical act of self-reclamation any survivor of violence will ever know.

  10. Lauren, pick up any old school text book on the history of Canada, from the 1950s, 60s, 70s… 80s? You will see that there is no mention of residential schools. I was in high school in BC in the late 80s and early 90s and aside from the fur trade, not much more time was spent talking about aboriginal peoples, and certainly not Canada’s colonialist oppression of them. In regards to Ben’s comment, I wanted to say that *not* explicitly mentioning ‘cultural genocide’ is still a glaring omission in regards to curriculum. But what else could we expect, since as far as I know, the Canadian government has yet to admit that it was an act genocide. We have a long way to go.

    • I agree on that point about talking around the issue of acknowledging it was an act of genocide. So many people dispute the legitimacy of the term “cultural genocide”, too, as if that’s somehow less of a genocide than any other, and they need to be introduced to these concepts before university, in my opinion — because not everyone goes to university or takes those courses if they do go.

      • Hi, just reading through these comments again. You are right about this needing to be taught a lot sooner in schools. Its beginning more now here where I work. I am in Kamloops, I work in our tribe’s museum located in the old Kamlooops Indian Residential School. We kept the building as a monument/reminder of what happened here. More recently we began giving residential school tours and explaining what happened. We offer these to elementary and high school, post secondary as well. It has been very successful so far.

  11. Thanks for taking the time to give insight into the problem. I appreciate that. Keep writing. I too am second generation of residential school legacy. My mom was in residential school in Fort Resolution, NWT. She is a strong Chipewyan woman, whom I Admire a lot. Survivors of abuse from these schools are resilient and proud. Mahsi Cho.

  12. I really enjoyed your essay, it’s gives some ‘bones’ to a topic that needs to have a voice in the non aboriginal world! It was informative and although it’s not indepth, it does inform succinctly and opens a door for further investigation for those who wish.

    My mother went to residential school and through the years I’ve begun to understand more and more why she was the way she was, her need for constant cleaning; impeccably clean and dressed children and herself; her impatience and angry outbursts when things weren’t done perfectly – all the residential school influence and no role models for a ‘normal’ family. But she also taught me about love, peace, social justice and the unity of mankind.

  13. I appreciate your concerns regarding the monstrosity of the residential schools in our history. What I don’t get, in your pages on abortion, where you show very little care or concern for the lives of children who are continuously and systematically destroyed by our tax dollars. These children have no treaty, no land, no nothing… just the ‘choice’ of their mothers. What about them?

    • This is called hijacking.

      I am not going to engage in a debate that centers the ideologies, concerns, experiences, and voices of white catholics, in the comments section of a blog post about residential schools. End of story.

  14. As someone who is white and was raised Catholic, I can honestly say that the horrors of the residential schools had a great deal to do with my detachment from organized religion. The catholic church has a long and storied history of violence, corruption and cruelty, iced with an unbelievable degree of self-righteousness.

    In an earlier comment, you’d said, “It’s also my belief that putting aboriginal children into foster care with non-aboriginal parents … is continuing the same legacy.”

    I had an aboriginal uncle who was adopted by my grandparents, who lived close to the reserve he was born on. He and his siblings had witnessed the murder of their father, and upon being placed into foster care, they were separated.

    He came to live with my grandparents after several attempts at placing him had failed. My grandparents had only had him a few months when his mother died, which is when they asked him if he would like to stay with them as their son. He accepted. He was only 5 years old by this point, the second-youngest of six children in his new family.

    My Mom told me horror stories from his childhood that would keep me awake at night; things he endured as a result of simply being aboriginal. Most of the hardship was at the hands of white people, but there was a surprising amount that also came from other aboriginal people who called him an ‘apple’ (red on the outside and white on the inside). His family just couldn’t protect him all the time.

    He lived a terribly tragic life; as did most of his biological siblings. I am sad to say that I barely knew him, because he was in and out of prison for most of his adult life and didn’t come home to visit much. He had made some very positive leaps in his life when he suddenly passed away from AIDS-related complications 5 years ago. I cried a lot when they told me they had found his body. He died alone; a shitty end to a shitty life. Some members of my extended family wrote off his difficulties as being a result of his choosing to become involved in crime and drugs. I don’t think those are judgements one can make until they’ve endured what he did. My uncle was broken at a very young age from the things that he endured, and that is a legacy that was not of his own making.

  15. Regarding Education:
    As teachers, we included the tragedy and legacy of the Residential schools in the Learning for Living Curriculum in the 80’s in BC….but, somehow all the writing and development went missing in the bowels of the BC Department of Education and was never used. That curriculum piece was aimed at elementary school students. It used a series of films created with support from the CBC and National Film Board. It involved the telling of many important stories in a dramatic form that was very accessible to young people. Instead of preaching, it consisted of story telling and conversation.

    The introduction of First Nations Education in Senior High began to address that issue later. However, that course is not always recognized by post secondary institutions as fulfilling entry requirements. As a result, student enrolment in the course has not been as high as hoped. However, we continue to offer this course. The course can be googled at First Nations 12. Thus, more must be done!

    We must continue to meet talk, reconcile and reconcile. Even though a whole racial group of humans, has been profoundly effected by this history, so have those who perpetrated the violence and oppression.

    My heritage was Icelandic and Scottish relatives who came to Canada around the turn of the 20th century (1901). In spite of my heritage, I have formed loving friendship bonds with many Aboriginal Persons and colleagues.

    Many of these friends and acquaintances have demonstrated amazing courage, faith, and kindness. They have taken the time to support me in my work voluntarily. I am very grateful to these wonderful people for being willing to open up their hearts and minds to find a new and better way of moving ahead.

    We are at a time in our history on Earth when we must listen to the messages from the land, sea and air. We must support the elders in passing on the truths they learned before their worlds were torn asunder by those foreign invaders who were originally welcomed by the people who lived on the lands here in what is now known as Canada.

  16. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I can honestly say I graduated in 2003 and was never made aware of residential schools, not even in grade 11 Social Studies, where we did an entire semester’s worth of work on “Canadiana” as she put it, the idea was to give our class a complete Canadian history, pretty convenient that this tidbit was left out. We were taught about the Japanese internment camps, but not this. I am ashamed that I was so proud to be Canadian for so long and had no idea about this dark part of our history- I was also recently made aware of the William Coombes scandal that took place out of a residential school in Kamloops B.C. in the early 1960’s- whereby he testified that he witnessed the Queen of England and her Husband Prince Phillip abduct ten children- not related however to the other many atrocities he witnessed and survived while attending the school- I can’t lie, my first instinctual reaction to the things he said occurred was disbelief. “Surely not in Canada, would never happen- could never happen, he must be lying” I know though, deep down, his story is likely the most honest thing I have heard in some time.

    My heart breaks for the families, the parents of the now grown children that were taken- as a parent, I could not imagine the pain and heartache these people must have felt to have their children ripped from them and placed in institutions- not knowing when or if you will see your precious baby again. William Coombes told of one “instructor” who threw a young girl from a balcony to her death, and there was nothing at all, any of them could do about it. It makes me sick to know that this was happening, in the cities we live in, and most likely no one knew- in fact I was always under the distinct impression that if you were aboriginal you would get free schooling, access to affordable, and sometimes free housing, good healthcare, tax exemption etc etc. – Because “they” are aboriginal “they” get everything handed to them- it’s what we hear all the time- “effing natives, always complaining that they don’t get enough, go get your free school and stop drinking yourself to death and having so many kids” etc, racism is rampant, particularly towards Native peoples.

    I Truly believe that the best solution to this level of racism is to take two steps, first of all, raising awareness, putting out a lot of information, much like this simple blog post, to bring to light just how terrible this country has actually been to aboriginal people. The second step would be to stop segregation- I personally, would likely have never felt any kind of ill will towards native people at all, had there not always been a distinct separation from them- separate schools, separate set of rules, exceptions to the laws I have to abide by etc, it’s very very easy to fall into an “us vs. them” mentality if we purposely separate ourselves, instead of trying to come to a common ground- trying to reach understanding and compassion.

    This hate goes both ways- I have experienced the worst kind of hate from a native man, who perhaps didn’t hate me, but disliked me BECAUSE I’m a white girl- and seemingly for no other reason, I’m white and am most probably racist against natives, therefore I will dislike you- he happens to be dating one of my very best friends, whom I now have not spoken to in almost two years, and my heart aches, and I blame him and his hate, for her absence in my life.

    These are the things that we need to work on in order to move forward, we need to acknowledge the pain- and step forward as a whole, not in pieces.

  17. i have been to these residential schools. i survived them. i lost my language thought i lost my pride but it only hid till i was strong enough to stand on my own. i was strapped for speaking my own language. it was the only one i could speak. raped taught that my grandparents spirituality was wrong, for believing their way i was beaten. for asking questions about religion. food was substandard it barely kept body and soul together. we watched nuns and priests getting it on but were told sex outside of marriage was bad. hmmmmmmm. many other things went on if you want to know more ask i and i shall tell you

    • One of my uncles attended three of them. In the states, they took the children away when they were approaching their teens, so they were relatively more able to retain their languages and fight back when necessary, but it still had a devastating impact upon him for a long long time. He doesn’t talk much about it.

      One of my aunties also attended one, and as part of her healing, simply can’t endure the trauma of revisiting this part of her life, even decades later.

      That being said, every person’s needs are different. If you feel the need to speak out, you are helping pave the way for those who can’t, to continue their healing by educating other people. Thank you.

  18. I’m glad this blog is in circulation on the internet and educating people. I have shared this on my Facebook page. Being indigenous myself Oglala Lakota well half I find that many people don’t talk about this it is often not acknowledged in the world either as far as in the media very little, capital hill or on many peoples blogs. It is those brave and courageous non indigenous and indigenous folks alike who share this piece of history. I look forward to reading more of what you have blogged in the future. Thank you so much for helping me to see the basis of why this happened to indigenous people. I’ve added my website pages. Please friend me on Facebook.

  19. I am currently working in an old residential school building. The building has various uses including the Museum where I work. As I write this a residential school survivor is taking high school students on a tour of the Museum and residential school and sharing her personal experiences. Are things changing? Yes, but change is a slow process. Thank you for your article.

  20. residential schools hasn’t defeated Natives: the Natives back then just gave Europeans a chance. Just like how Adam and Eve rebelled, so did Europeans. Natives were like oh we’ll just let them run the world and see how messed up the world will be. Now Natives are going to rescue Mother Nature; preferably in the Earth. It’s just some of the ideas that run through my mind. If you have heard the story of James Douglas, you would know too, that Natives aren’t pussies. A majority of First Nations fought front lines in World War’s too. If you ask me, Natives can kick some butt.

    • Misogyny, as in calling someone a “pussy” to indicate inferiority or weakness, is an imported colonial value. Concurrently, this very type of misogyny was instrumental in the colonization of most of Europe.

  21. Being of mixed race myself, Annishanaabe, and French, I didnt learn about res. schools til after i got out of high school, and along with that research finding out about atrocities that occurred in Canada to other peoples, such as Banff Nat. Park, now a playground for the wealthy was a “concentration” camp or sorts during the WW’s, But when your in school following a curriculum, and lessons taken from history books, and the best way to put it is History is written by the “winners” SO your theyre only going to teach you what they want to think, Being closer to my native heritage, does bring upo strong emotions about the genocide of my people, But……. HAIFISCHGEWEINT did touch a very good point that, We’re not the first people genocide has happened to, and aren’t the last, correct me if im wrong, but I believe this is still going on in our time, now im almost willing to venture as far as to say, Take away skin color, “nationality” beliefs, creeds, We’re almost hardwired for hate and violence. but I can almost go in another direction, about striping away creed, skin color….etc…….. And could certainly say the biggest cause and effect for this………… a disease called GREED………… well thats my rant…..

  22. Pingback: Shit White People Need To Hear About Racism | HaifischGeweint

  23. This was a well written article and much more could have indeed have been written. I am so sick of hearing Canadians say that it couldn’t have happened here. There is no country more blind than Canadians. Not only did it happen it still does. Unfortunately, the natives, inuit, eskimos, etc., were simply considered the expendable ones. Many died as a result of endless accounts of horrific torture abuse and mind control experiments. After WW11, military bases were constructed across three major areas of Canada. The DEW Line, the Mid Canada Line and the Pinetree Line.They were partially funded and run by Americans. They had already brought 5,000 Nazi Dr., scientists etc into the States and Canada. Many of these had performed horrible experiments. They were given government and university positions among others and turned loose on our countries. What did we think was going to happen? That they recognized the error of their ways and turned over a new leaf? No, while we were staring at the holocaust in horror, it continued under our noses. There are thousands of military children who have recovered memories from these military bases all across the country. There are thousands of missing native children from government run schools with similar memories and thousands missing, they never made it through. If you are ever wondering how things got to backward in the world today, ask the children.

  24. Just read this article and wanted to say a big THANK YOU for posting it. Simply put, with less eloquent words – you are awesome. The “Get over yourself” part of your writing is exactly what I wish in the past I could of articulated to ignorant Canadians a lot more. But now I can educate more ignorant people a lot easier now thanks in help to your article!

  25. I went to a residential school in the 70’s, it was a good place, warm, safe, plenty of food, and a good opportunity to learn. I would be naive to think that there was not some level of abuse whether it be sexual, physical or mental, but when and if it was discovered it was dealt with severely to the perpetrator. The institution was put in place to house native and non-native kids from across the NWT, we all had the same opportunity and privilege to learn in a safe and caring atmosphere. If anything I, as a non-native had less privileges than the native kids because they were given clothing, personal care items and an allowance that I did not have access to because I was non-native and my parents supposedly had money to give me for all these things….not. My parents were less off than most non-native from what I could see. I got myself a job at 15 years old to take care of these things. My point is that you and a lot of other folks are focusing on the bad things and I don’t for a minute try to deny that there was bad shit happening, but there was a lot of good things that happened when I attended school. I don’t think enough gets said about the good things and there was a lot of that too. I too don’t buy into the “get over it” attitude either, but one MUST move on because neither you nor anyone else is going to change the past, and that you have to “get over”

    • I, too, am non-native, and a person whose parents had less than everyone else around us. I got my first job when I was 12, to take care of all the things my parents wouldn’t take care of, while they were busy spending all their money trying to show everyone in the neighbourhood how much money they have to spend (while behind closed doors, we were all going hungry, and were nutritionally starved and abused in every conceivable way a child can be).

      But you know what? There is no “good side” to mass graves containing several thousand stolen indigenous children in Alberta, or to the news becoming public that illegal and unethical experiments were conducted involuntarily on stolen indigenous children, or that children were being strapped into electric chairs in some of these institutions.

      Maybe part of your healing is to focus on what you gained from your experience. I think you’ll have a hard time convincing the adult survivors who ran for their lives from residential schools, only to be abducted a second or third time, that this is the path to their healing. Not when the general public either pretends this didn’t happen for over a hundred years, or doesn’t know at all.

      The more information that comes out, the more healing needs to be done. The worse it sounds, the worse your “change the subject and look at the silver lining” approach registers with survivors, intergenerational survivors, and their family members (both biological and chosen). Healing isn’t going to happen if justice is denied because a small proportion of people like you — people who weren’t the targets of cultural genocide in these institutions, and yet were attending school within them alongside children who were there for the express purpose of killing every last living memory of their ancestors — try to talk over people who have fought for over a hundred years for the right to speak their truth, because you’d prefer to talk about something nicer instead.

      • Well my friend, again, I am trying to focus on the good things that happened in residential schools while you, who I don’t know ever attended a residential school seem to be able to articulate well about all the bad things that happened. This is where I am going to go out on a limb and declare that all your information that you use is merely hearsay. As I said before, I don’t for as minute pretend to think that bad things happened to people back then, but I firmly believe that the government of the day thought that they were doing the right thing, They knew no better. Its sad that they didn’t but the truth is they thought it was the best thing. As for my preference to talk about nicer things instead, I always use the formula that there are two side to every story, and truly there are, but some where in between lies the truth.
        On a personal note and an observation, you seem to be somewhat of an angry young person who has found a soapbox from which to beat your drum, and that’s fine, fill your boots but don’t lose focus of the fact that you weren’t there, you don’t know the pure truth.

        • Yeah, sure, bro. All the information that is printed in records generated from first-person testimony from survivors themselves speaking in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and all the information printed in records released to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission over the past several years, and all the mass graves, is all just hearsay.

          And you’re just helping so much by pushing this narrative, that all the survivors in my personal life who are so haunted by their experiences that they either can’t speak of them at all or have only bone-chilling things to repeat about their experiences there, will be first in line to award you for your heroism in raising awareness to the general public of what they’ve been through — because Creator only knows how imperfect and unfortunately pessimistic my uncle, who attended THREE of these schools, is, that he is just hopelessly helpless to find the silver lining in a goddamned thing in life, and so he needs you to speak on his behalf.

          Or you can take your shit somewhere else. I won’t be publishing any further comments authored by you, since they surely will contain nothing but apologetics for the institutions that took part in trying to ethnically cleanse this country of its “Indian problem”.

        • Oh, I am so especially fond of your “they didn’t know better” and “you weren’t there and can’t possibly know”.

          Because there has literally never been a time in the history of this country that the federal government of the colonial state power hasn’t “known better” — or put another way, this government has PERSISTENTLY TRIED TO ERADICATE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES through every means possible. Of course they fucking knew better. Why else would they try so hard, for so long? Or did you honestly think creating the residential school system and passing bills to enforce it with the nation-wide power of the RCMP was as easy as fixing yourself a cup of tea?

          And by the way, you’re addressing a survivor of incest with your “you’re just angry and couldn’t possibly know”. I have known deeper and more profoundly for the entire duration of my life, than I am as of yet able to parse in written or spoken language, and still know that this depth has its limits for comparison with my aunties and uncles who are survivors of those schools. Of course I’m angry. Of course I can’t possibly know. Doesn’t make me fucking clueless.

          • So I guess your mindless rants about being able to express ones views about any subject you declare personal are just a bunch of fucking bullshit, just like your whole life. So don’t publish any more of my comments, just goes to prove what I said that you are an angry person with an axe to grind. Ya its too bad you are a victim of incest, you have every right to be angry, but hers the rub….fucking get over it. You cant change the past and you certainly cant live in it like you are because what happens……you become the product you are, an angry fucked up mindless ranting idiot. In other words go fuck yourself if that’s what you want out of life. I have nothing but pity for fools like yourself. My last rant to you.

            • When I live in a world where incest and sexual abuse of children has stopped, and women aren’t living under the imminent threat of rape — whether they are conscious of it or not — then we can talk about me “getting over it”.

              Until you’ve lived through even a fraction of what I’ve faced in my lifetime, you can shut the fuck up any time you feel the urge to spout the words “get over it”.

              In the mean time, you can get the fuck over the fact that I’m angry, since the worst of it you’ll ever have to deal with is in the comments on a blog somewhere on the internet you’ll have forgotten about by tomorrow morning.

  26. While I can’t make any comment about native schools in Canada, their equivalent served a different purpose in New Zealand, and for a long time served as centres of cultural revival and leadership. Their students still dominate Manu korero (speech) and kapa haka (dance) competitions, and there is a nostalgia for the old days of Hato Tipene, when that school (which closed some time ago) dominated our national sport, rugby, and groomed future leaders

  27. As a high school history teacher, I’ve done a ton of teaching and learning about residential school over the past five years. I think I do a fair job of getting my students to understand the horrors of them; however, this is the best article I have ever read about the issue of residential schools in Canada. I will be sharing this will all of my classes. Thank you!

  28. I say the 3 things non-Abs need to hear about residential schools are kidnapping, rape & murder. A part of their history that’s been hidden for almost two centuries.

  29. Reblogged this on Megs in Sweden and commented:
    What people don’t understand is that the legacy of Residential Schools still live on in our people today. This didn’t happen 100 years ago, the last school was closed in 1996 – the year I was born. Like the author said, it hasn’t even been 20 years.

  30. If you walk across the University of Alberta campus on any weekday you will see hundreds of students of Asian descent. All of these young people would have had parents and grand-parents who were insulted and marginalized in Canada because of their race, and yet they appear among us as bright, clean and well-mannered, and destined for stable, productive lives.

    Tel Aviv, which was built by Jews who survived a real genocide attempt, looks like Calgary. In 1947, 90 percent of Israel’s exports were agricultural. Now they are mostly manufactured goods. And the Israelis have endured war, and remain under constant threat of it.

    I don’t like Indians because so many are lazy, self-pitying habitual drunkards. That’s something Native people have to learn about non-Natives. Although you know it already, don’t you?

    • Students of Asian descent, huh? Which Asian descent are you talking about? Or were you perhaps under the impression that they were all the same? You sure the brunt of racism was born only by their parents and grandparents? And are you sure that you’re talking about citizens of Canada, and not perhaps, say, international students from wealthy families? Are you perhaps forgetting all the working class people of Asian descent who won’t everhave the same opportunities and whose histories are at risk of being erased by gentrification?

      You know what? Never mind.

      How about that little turn of phrase you chose there… “Real genocide”. That’s an interesting one. What exactly, by contrast, makes a genocide simply imaginary? I don’t suppose you’ve thought about the cost to the Middle East since it was carved out into separate countries so haphazardly, with no forethougt into cultural/ancestral territories, to be “mostly” exporting manufactured goods rather than agricultural goods? Or, say, to whom those manufactured goods are being exported — perhaps the very same nation-states that invaded their territories, for instance? Are you sure this part of the world is merely “under threat” of war, and not directly mired in it to his day since before 1947?

      Nah. Never mind any of that either.

      How about you tell me about all of the “Indians” who aren’t lazy and drunk, who have done better in schools and pursued higher education to achieve credentials that far exceed the amount of work you’ve done, who you just happen to conveniently ignore with your generalization about native people? How about you tell me about the artists, business people, musicians, tradespeople, and teachers, of native descent, who don’t fit your paradigm? For what reason would you just ignore them too?

      Wait. Why bother? How about instead, you show me why all the wealthy white people getting shitfaced all weekend up and down Whyte Ave are any different.

      Or maybe, just maybe, question where your stereotypical thinking comes from, and what you are doing to maintain this dream-like state in your own head in the face of pilng evidence all around you every day that you are clearly delusional?

      Be the person you think other people should aspire to. When you complain about what other people are doing as if to make yourself stand taller, you put the full range of your weakness on exhibit.

    • As an educated, employed “Indian” it sickens me that someone has such an archaic mindset. Drunken Indians are not the only ones on skid row, there are plenty of other cultures in plain view on the streets. Of course, it doesn’t occur to you that drinking is a direct result of colonization; and a direct result of the Residential School system. Perhaps all cultures should experience that kind of mistreatment, perhaps if you were taken from your parents, starved, physically, mentally and sexually abused, witnessed the atrocities that these children witnessed. It effects our people in ways you cant imagine. People need to educate themselves before making such statements. Racism is ignorance and you have proved it.

  31. Okay, let’s leave race and ethnicity out of it, for one paragraph. I don’t like alcoholics who can’t even care for their own children. I admire people who work to become accomplished citizens and who produce wealth for themselves and other people. How’s that? Is there anything in that that might seem unreasonable or cruel?

    Now then, the most prosperous ethnic group in Canada are Jews. The least prosperous are aboriginal Canadians. And it isn’t even close. Jews were more viciously persecuted in Europe in the Twentieth Century than Indians were in North America. That wasn’t even close either. What you don’t see is Jews claiming that living in alcoholic squalor is a reasonable and forgivable response to having been persecuted. Jews do not accept excuses for failure. Indians base their entire value system on finding excuses not to work. One hundred years from now, Jews will still be the most prosperous ethnic group in Canada, and Indians will still be a silly little people whose lives are stunted by their refusal to take responsibility for anything, because white people are to blame for anything bad that ever happens to Indians.

    Incidentally, I am not Jewish.

    And, in a little bit of semantic housekeeping, “cultural genocide” is a metaphor. When you commit real genocide against a people you kill them all. You don’t enter into treaties with them and attempt to educate their children. A residential school is not the same as a gas chamber.

    • It’s fascinating that you felt that was all an invitation to continue the discussion on your terms. You are not offering conversation. You are only interested in proselytising white nationalist ideology.

      Conversely, I am not interested in entertaining this, either here on the comments on my blog, or anywhere else. You come from this is idea of all ideas having an even playing field, and thus being all equally valuable, whereas I actually know and live every day in the knowledge that this is delusional fantasy at best and blatant sociopathy at worst.

      Take your agenda and stuff it back into the public school textbooks from whence it came.

  32. Why do you think that the Jewish people have rebounded from the Shoah? I think it is because they have developed a culture of achievement.

    Canadian Indians will remain social and economic castaways in perpetuity unless they acquire the habits of thrift, sobriety and industry that are the norm in the mainstream culture. That’s just a fact, and no serious student of Sociology would dispute it.

    When Indians are allowed to claim that they are owed tribute because they have suffered a conquest, and that they are under no obligation to earn anything, they can never become self-supporting citizens. They are condemned to poverty and sickness and misery.

    Your argument seems to be, you don’t have to argue with me because my arguments offend you. What are you, eight years old?

  33. That’s your argument? That Indians and white people can expect equal economic outcomes in the foreseeable future? If you think that, why are you blogging about Indians at all? It is not enough to be literate and passionate when you write. You also have to be accurate.

    Do I seem insincere? Can you point to a single sentence that I have written that you think I might not have actually meant, but was just saying for effect? Do you think that I do not understand that I am a racist? Because I most certainly do. I have been driven to racism by a moral analysis of the facts.

    And notice that I haven’t insulted you, other than to point out, accurately, that you are refusing to argue fairly and coherently. You are intelligent enough to write a literate blog, but not intelligent enough to understand that you can’t get away with dishonesty.

  34. But maybe your readers are. How many generations are we supposed to wait for Indians to get over the tragedy of residential schools? Could you give us a date when Indians will finally be able to act like responsible, competent adults instead of beggars and conmen? I’m 63, and the “Indian problem” has been the same thing all my life. There is no “Asian problem.” People have emigrated to Canada from Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and now their children can be found among the professional classes.

    Haifischgeweint here won’t argue because he has no argument. He thinks, “I’m not going to read your messages” is some kind of magical incantation, or maybe it’s his idea of wit. I don’t know what he means, as I am dependent for communication on sentences that actually convey information.

    • Christ. Just keep going. I already know who you are, which is why I won’t bother trying to talk to you like your ears were open. Maybe you’re doing a public service by continuing on as you already have.

  35. Just as a matter of interest, how did learning that light has mass radically change everything you thought you knew about the physical universe? That’s about the most pretentious claim I’ve come across in quite a while.

    You know what your blog is really about? It’s about what a wonderfully perceptive and moral human being you are. That’s your real subject. Do you actually know any Indians well enough to have been invited to their homes? You’re such a self-absorbed me-me-me-er that I doubt that you have any friends at all.

    Like most middle -class Canadians, I don’t actually know any Indians very well, because so few of them make it into the middle class, So no, I don’t dislike Indians personally. When I wrote that I did I was being dishonest, and since I am insisting on honesty from you, I’m going to have to own up to my own dishonesty in that regard. The real reason I am angry is because much of this truth and reconciliation business is just white people who do not themselves genuinely feel guilt for the residential schools (and why should they since they had nothing to do with it personally?) loudly demanding to be praised for their moral courage in denouncing residential schools. It is posturing to apologize for something that no reasonable person would blame you for in the first place. There is no guilt or atonement involved in it.

    Meanwhile, Indians themselves are nurturing the moral lie that, because they have been harmed, they have no obligation to strive, or even to care for their own children. How is the squalor of Attawapiskat even possible unless its residents have no minimal capacity for responsible living? Unless they are immoral?

    Notice that I’m trying to tell you the truth. You’re just trying not to lose an argument.

  36. Indians must be responsible for their own economic success. That’s a racist diatribe? I’m pretty sure that the statement, white people must be responsible for their own economic success, is not racist. It’s just moral sense.

    The year my father turned 20, World War II broke out. World War ii was a bit more harmful than the residential schools wouldn’t you say? But the Germans, who lost it, now live in the most prosperous country in Europe. I mean, come on.

  37. An interesting point, haifischgeweint (and can you not come up with an easier call name to spell?) is that your view, which is that Indians must be forgiven their incompetence for at least another generation because of the enormity of the residential schools, is the only one allowed in the mainstream press. Prominent pundits like Andrew Coyne and Margaret Wente are just ignoring the Truth and Reconciliation report, probably because they cannot ethically agree with its recommendations, but don’t want to risk being called racists if they publicly disagree.

    But you’re not going to argue with me, are you? And nobody else who might read this blog is going to either. When people won’t argue with you it’s usually because they know they can’t win on the facts, and so they try to get away with claiming that your point is so clearly ridiculous that they don’t have to acknowledge it. I’ll just state it one more time and be done with you, It is this: Indians are incompetent because they’re not even trying to be successful, and they are claiming that it is racist for white people to expect them to work and study and strive for success like everybody else. Allowing them to get away with that claim will doom them to perpetual failure and poverty, for as many generations as they are allowed to live as if it were true. I invite anyone out there to argue with my point.

  38. I don’t think you’ve got a lot of readers Halfwittgenstein. You’re well-meaning but you’re wrong. My advice to you would be the same as it is to any young writer: Never write something that you don’t really mean. That means no exaggerations or affectations of feelings you don’t really have.

    The one thing aboriginals need to know about nonaboriginals is, most of us don’t really care about Indians because we don’t know any. We’re insulated from them by class. I myself had my first five-minute conversation with an Indian when I was 21, and I didn’t like him because he was he was probably the stupidest person I had met in my life up to that point.. If you’re smart enough to go to University you almost never run into anybody with an I.Q. of less than 100, so you most smart people don’t understand what really low-i.Q. people are like, or how unpleasant they are.

    Trust me, Beverley McLachlan doesn’t know any Indians, and if she had to meet with any for any length of time, she wouldn’t like them. Well, maybe she knows Murray Sinclair, but he’s a pretty rare type. Nobody normal could possibly spend a week on an Indian reserve and come away liking and respecting Indians. They’re idiots, both morally and intellectually. Think what David Ahenakew was like, and then imagine how silly a people must be if a man like that could rise to be a leader among them. Or how about Theresa Spence, who is a chief. A liar and a thief, by all the evidence.

  39. I am proud to be Cree/Blackfoot Indian from what the government boundaries label the land of Canada!! I am proud to be alive to add to the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. I am not a victim, I am a survivor of the tragedy. I am going to change the world with my personal experience. I will stay strong and healthy for my children and their future.

  40. I am a child survivor of a parent of residential school genocide. My whole family from my grandparents to aunts and uncles, cousins and now my children to my grandchildren will forever be affected by what was done to my father. We are all suffering and the damage has been done. The healing that is suppose to happen and the vicious cycle that needs to be Broken is still a vicious cycle of abuse and addiction. I’m trying so hard to break this chain but to no availe it still tearing my family apart.

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