According to TRC investigations, residential school children were subjected to physical and sexual abuse by personnel, were frequently hungry or underfed, and lived in unsafe living conditions. The report also notes that many students suffered from tuberculosis and other diseases which they could not receive proper treatment for due to the poor medical facilities at the schools.
Residential schools in Canada provided education for children from native cultures across the country. They were established by the Catholic Church as places where indigenous people could be taught skills needed by employers. However, studies have shown that abuse occurred regularly at these schools.
In an attempt to keep costs down, teachers at the schools were usually not trained to work with indigenous children, who made up about half of all enrollees. This left them without the ability to protect themselves from abuse from students or staff members.
The first residential school was built in 1659 in Boston, Massachusetts. It was followed by others in different parts of the country, with the last one closing in 1978. There are still issues with poverty and unemployment among native people today because of the damage done by the government's lack of action on addressing the abuse that took place at the schools.
People need to know about this tragedy so that it cannot be repeated elsewhere.
At residential schools, corporal punishment was frequent, with many children reporting being strapped or beaten. Many students have also been sexually abused. In some cases, teachers and church leaders participated in the abuse by doing so themselves or helping to find victims.
Students who fought back or complained would be further punished. Teachers used whatever means they could find to control their pupils, from physical violence to psychological manipulation. One student who survived this type of education says that "you either complied or you got hit".
In an attempt to make up for the lack of education, many schools relied on religious indoctrination instead. Children were taught that Christianity was necessary for them to go to heaven when they died, so teachers forced them to attend church meetings and prayer sessions throughout the day. They also often had to prepare and serve food at church gatherings - which more often than not consisted of bland dishes like potatoes or pasta with little meat or vegetables included. These practices created a lot of devout but unhappy students who blamed their suffering on their religion.
Residential school students report that they were rarely if ever taught anything other than how to be good Christians. They were never encouraged to question authority or think for themselves, because such activities were seen as un-Christian.
Many pupils claimed a loveless upbringing, as well as humiliation and degradation at the hands of school personnel. Hunger, poor nutrition, and the consumption of the same foods were all prevalent concerns. Physical abuse also was reported by many students.
Indian Residential School History notes that parents believed their children would be taken care of at the school. In fact, regulations stipulated that parents could not remove their children from the school without the consent of the superintendent. However, this consent could be withheld if there was no available space in a local Indian agency school. When they arrived at the school, children were often separated from their parents and placed in institutions where they were taught in English instead of their native language. This practice began in 1879 when the last federal government-run school opened its doors in Blacktown, New South Wales.
The majority of children interviewed for the Indian Residential Schools History Project stated that they felt humiliated by staff and teachers. Another child recalled being hit with rulers, canes, and fists by teachers who wanted him to stop asking questions about why he was at the school. Many students claimed that they were abused by other students too. One girl said that she was raped by several older boys at the school.
The youngster went on to recount how he was molested in further detail. When he tried to tell someone about the abuse, no one took him seriously and so he was further punished.
In an article that appeared in the journal Psychology Today, former student Alexis Kirkpatrick described being hit with a paddle stuffed with newspapers and then locked in a room without food or water for celebrating Christmas at the school where she lived.
She said that she was also forced to strip naked and wash floors during exercise hours. Other students have reported similar exercises.
One girl told of being tied face down on the floor with her hands behind her back while teachers played rugby with her body. They would beat her head repeatedly against the floor until it was bleeding and then throw her into a wall to stop the pain.
Another student who reported being raped by several older boys said she was not taken to hospital after the attack because staff members did not believe her story. She died several years later from tuberculosis brought on by the trauma of the incident.
Children were also given electric shocks as a form of punishment.
In addition to the cultural and social consequences of being forcibly relocated, many children were subjected to physical, sexual, psychological, and/or spiritual abuse while attending schools, which has had long-term consequences such as health problems, substance abuse, mortality/suicide rates, criminal activity, and gang activity.
Residential schools were operated by churches or government agencies and aimed at educating Indigenous children about "the white man's way" of life and teaching them English. Although they began in the 1880s, a significant number of schools did not open until after the First World War. Over 9,600 students attended these schools, which were mainly run by Catholic missionaries but also included teachers from other religions and denominations that worked with the churches. They were located across the country with some concentration in Ontario and Quebec. The schools have been described as "essentially orphanages for Indian children."
The effect of the schools was devastating. Not only did they destroy the indigenous culture of the children sent to them, but also their language was often spoken against, which has led many people to believe that they caused extinction for some languages. There are still communities in Canada who suffer the effects of this history today, including high rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide, and poverty.
Schoolchildren played an important role in protests against the schools. In 1956, for example, Indians throughout Canada held a series of demonstrations against the boarding school system.
Poorer overall and self-rated health, as well as greater incidence of chronic and infectious illnesses, were among the physical health outcomes associated with residential schooling. Mental anguish, sadness, addictive behaviors and drug misuse, stress, and suicidal conduct were among the effects on mental and emotional well-being. Violence was also a common outcome of the interaction between school staff and students.
Indigenous people across Canada participated in residential schools, which were operated by churches or the government from 1879 to 1996. The aim was to remove Indigenous children from their families and cultures to assimilate them into European-Canadian society. This article explores how Indigenous people reacted to these schools.
They fought back. They resisted - often violently - the efforts of school staff to erase them as individuals and destroy their cultures. Students protested, ran away, stole food to eat, and used drugs to escape from the pain of separation from family and tribe. But none of this altered the fact that they were now prisoners in deadly institutions where abuse was common and death was predictable.
Residential schools were supported by church and state authorities who believed that "saving" Indigenous children was a Christian duty and that educating them was essential for their conversion to Christianity.
However, studies show that education did not change beliefs, behavior, or practices related to alcohol or drug use. In fact, research indicates that many students attended residential schools while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.