Education in the Service of Assimilation: The Founding Vision of Residential Schools in Canada

Welton, Michael

Publisher:  Counterpunch
Date Written:  04/06/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23655

A look at some scholarly histories of residiential schools that put paid to Canada's kinder, gentler reputation.




Many of us can scarcely comprehend why a teacher might smack a child across the mouth with a ruler for "speaking Indian" (one of thousands of cruel acts perpetrated on Native children). They were stripped of their clothing and given a number upon entering the residential school. They were separated from their siblings by gender and removed from parental contact and community bonds. They were fed lousy food in lousy buildings. Around 6000 children died of various diseases, particularly tuberculosis. Their own spiritual traditions and practices were attacked mercilessly. Spiritual desolation awaited them down the road....

How can Canadians be taught the dark side of their history? Susan Neylan thinks that: "James Datschuk's Clearing the plain is a fitting choice for unsettling national narratives about the peaceful resettlement of the western prairies, for confronting presumptions about the benevolence of Canadian policy towards Indigenous peoples or a fair treaty process, and for appreciating how this dark side of Canadian history resonates today."
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