The Legacy of the Canadian Residential School System

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We all have an identity in this world. When we were born as human beings, we were all given an identity based on our gender, ethnicity, and the society we were born in. This identity is further strengthened by our experience throughout the journey to adulthood, creating a bond and belongingness to one’s own culture. When a language is eventually learned during childhood, it becomes one of the major factors in determining our identity. Cultural customs are also integrated into our minds as we grow up. As we approach adulthood, our basic cultural identity is shaped; we maintain our cultural identity as we enter the local society, as it is the label that sticks with us for the rest of our lives. Along the way, we have the freedom to choose which of the religions to believe in, but our choices will most likely be affected by our identities as well. The First Nations people in Canada are suffering from a loss of language, religion, and identity due to the horrible past they had suffered in the past century. In the 1880s, the residential school system was established by the government of Canada (Miller 2011). From then on, First Nations children were forced to attend these Catholic schools instituted based on European standards and regulations. Injustice went on for almost another century, in which many First Nation cultures were diminished and obliterated. Steven Harper may have apologized to the First Nations for the rest of the Canadians, but the damage is already done (Dorrell 2009). The Residential School System extinguished the hopes of Canadian First Nations in maintaining their own cultures. In this article we will use St. Mary’s, a residential school located in Mission, BC, as a case study to investigate the severity of the impact the RSS had on First Nations cultures. Language is the mean of communication of a society and a significant factor in cultural and social development. It is also the distinct identifier of a specific culture. By analyzing the complex...
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