Long before Europeans came to North America, Native people had a highly developed system of education. There was a great deal for Native children to learn before they could survive on their own. Native elders and parents passed on not only survival skills to their children, but their history, artistic ability, music, language, moral and religious values.
When European missionaries began to live amongst Native people, they concluded that the sooner they could separate children from their parents, the sooner they could prepare aboriginal people to live a civilized (i.e. European) lifestyle. Residential schools were established for two reasons: separation of the children from the family and the belief that Native culture was not worth preserving (LeJeune, Fr. Paul). Most people concluded that the Native culture was useless and dying and all human beings would eventually develop and change to be like the ‘advanced’ European civilization.
The First Nations of our land have endured hundreds of years of suffering. Ever since the first significant European contact the indigenous people have been treated as sub-humans; savages with no religion, intelligence, or right to live (Scott, Duncan). This general idea has carried through-out the history of our supposedly great country; Canada. This essay will examine the residential school system. It will then relate the Canadian Government’s actions in response to residential schools, good and bad. Overall, it will focus on the way in which these effects are represented through a literary text.
The book My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling, written from a Native perspective, tells the story of one Aboriginal girl’s life at a residential school and is an excellent way to introduce the topic to today’s students. The book covers a variety of universal themes such as racism and family relationships, as well as cultural
Cited: Hooks, bell. (1996). Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood. New York: Henry Holt and Company. Sterling, Shirley. (1992). My Name is Seepeetza. Toronto: Groundwood. LeJeune, Fr. Paul. Secondary source in McGillivray, Anne, “Therapies of Freedom: The Colonization of Aboriginal Childhood” in McGillivray, Anne, ed., Governing Childhood. (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1997). Mowat, Blake. Secondary source in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Canada’s Indian Reservation, Chapter 10 note 168. Anglican Church of Canada General. G. S. 75-103. “To the Honourable Frank Oliver, Minister of the Interior,” 27 Jan. 1964. Scott, Duncan. Secondary source in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Final Report, Chapter 10. NAC RG 10 VOL 6001 file 1-1-1- (1) MRC 8134. Memo for A. Meighen from DCS, Jan. 1988.