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TDSB: Canadian Social Studies & First Nations





An Overview of Residential Schools in Canada (Educator's Package)

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Subject(s): Canadian History, Canadian Social Studies, First Nations Studies, Geography, History, Social Studies
Grade Level: 5 - 8

First Nations people have lived in this country for many thousands of years. They were here long before anyone else. In the 16th century, European explorers and missionaries began making their way to Canada. Many of these people worked with the native people, learning from them and helping them. However, the Europeans also brought with them diseases like smallpox, tuberculosis and measles. Native people had never been in contact with these germs and many thousands died as a result.

As the British and French governments took more control, aboriginal people began to lose their culture and the land they needed for their way of life. A series of treaties, acts and reports set in motion the establishment of a system of residential schools. These schools were funded by the government and run by churches. The government believed Aboriginal Canadians should learn English or French and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs. They didn’t think that aboriginal culture was important in the modern world. They hoped that native traditons and culture would eventuallydisappear. The government believed children were easier to change than adults so they set up this system of schools.

Education was a way to “assimilate” the children – to make them behave and think more like the Europeans who were taking over Canada. Residential schools had a lasting impact on First Nations individuals, families and communites. The children who returned home brought with them the various abuses they experienced. That has affected their families and communites for generations. Children came home lonely, depressed and scared. Many had died without ever seeing their parents again.

This program gives students an overview of the residential school system in Canada. Combining archival footage with residential school survivor interviews, students will learn why and how the schools were established, the effect of treaties on aboriginal life, the impact of residential schools on future generations,what life was like for children in these schools, and an appreciation of aboriginal culture and history.

Educator's Package Includes:

Video, 32 page teacher's resource guide in digital format, complete with vocabulary list, viewing suggestions, numerous student activity sheets and event timeline. Also includes four BONUS segments:

  • Nunavut: Food and supplies
  • The Witness Blanket
  • Chief Robert Joseph
  • Shannen's Dream


Running Time: 36
Country of Origin: Canada
Captions: CC
Producer: McIntyre Media Inc.
Copyright Date: 2015
Language: English

Additional Resources
MCI085.pdf

TRANSCRIPT

Close
  • Imagine that you're seven years old just playing in front of your house. Suddenly, someone official looking comes and takes you to school far away where you can't see your parents, your family, or your friends for a long time. Imagine that you are no longer called by your own name. You are given a number or a different Christian name.
  • The clothes you always wear are taken away. Your hair is cut. You can't speak your own language. You can't share your stories. How would you feel? Would you be scared? This is what happened to about 150,000 aboriginal children across Canada starting over 150 years ago.
  • And Jacob Irniq, and I am nine years old. My [NON-ENGLISH] has told me stories about how our people used to live. My [NON-ENGLISH] was my age when he went to residential school. He didn't want to leave his family, but he had to go.
  • They brought us to this big [INAUDIBLE] hall residence, and they took all of our traditional clothing, and for the first time I saw and wore shoes. We had overnight become white men, and white women, and little children. I became very shy of my own culture. I became very embarrassed of my own culture because that's how we grew up-- we were brought up to be.
  • First Nations people have lived in this country for many thousands of years. They were here long before anyone else. There are six major First Nations groups up in Canada. The Woodland First Nations in Eastern Canada, the Iroquois First Nations of Southeastern Ontario, the Plains First Nations on the prairies, the Plateau First Nations between the Rocky Mountains and the Western Coast Mountains, the First Nations of the Pacific Coast, and the First Nations of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins.
  • Each nation possesses its own unique culture, language, and history, just like any other cultural group you find in Canada. Some First Nations people were hunters and gatherers. They hunted animals for meat and fur and gathered nuts, berries, and grains for food. Some relied on fishing for food and some grew corn, beans, and squash. They relied on the land for survival. They lived in large, organized communities with their own governments, cultural, and spiritual practices.
  • Children were regarded as gifts from the creator and were treated with love and respect. They learned the traditional ways of life and how to interact with nature. Much of what they learned was taught by parents and adults as they worked together. Children participated in traditional celebrations and ceremonies, and elders told stories that taught their values.
  • [MUSIC PLAYING]
  • In the 16th century, European explorers and missionaries began making their way to Canada. Many of these people worked with the native people learning from them and helping them. However, the Europeans also brought with them diseases like smallpox, tuberculosis, and measles. Native people had never been in contact with these germs, and many thousands died as a result. As the British and French governments took more control, aboriginal people began to lose their culture and the land they needed for their way of life.
  • In 1763, a royal a proclamation established British control of all of North America east of the Mississippi River. It was decided that only the British crown could deal with indians-on-land issues. From 1764 to 1923 a series of treaties were signed by aboriginal groups. The Canadian government was anxious to settle the West and North and to build a railway line from coast to coast. First Nations groups agreed to give large tracts of land to the government in exchange for smaller areas of reserved lands, plus livestock, clothing, hunting, and fishing rights, and the promise of a good education for aboriginal children.
  • As settlers moved west, the vast buffalo herds that aboriginal people relied on begin to disappear. They soon realized that their survival would depend on learning new skills. These skills became critical issue in treaty negotiations. A treaty is an agreement that is negotiated between nations. Treaties are contracts in which groups often give up or gain land, resources, and services. While treaties can benefit both sides, in this case the Canadian government failed to meet the terms of the agreements.
  • As more and more treaties were signed, aboriginal people found themselves forced to stay on reserved lands rather than move from place to place with the seasons. With the passage of the British North America Act in 1867 and the Indian Act in 1876, the Canadian government was required to provide aboriginal youth with an education and to make them more like the Europeans who had arrived here. However, these schools were not the schools aboriginal leaders had expected.
  • In 1883, Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, authorized the creation of three industrial schools, two in Saskatchewan and one in Alberta. In the next century, many more residential schools would be opened. They were funded by the government and run by churches. By 1930 there were approximately 80 residential schools scattered across the country. Most were in the four western provinces and the territories, but they were also significant numbers in Ontario and Northern Quebec. Only Nova Scotia had residential schools in the Atlantic provinces. The last school closed in 1996.
  • The government believed aboriginal children should learn English or French and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs. They didn't think that the aboriginal culture was important in the modern world. They hoped that native traditions and culture would eventually disappear. The government believed children were easier to change than adults, so they set up this system of schools. Education was a way to assimilate the children, to make them behave and think more like the Europeans who were taking over Canada.
  • If children were removed from their family and community, they thought this change would be easier. Is it possible that a government would try to assimilate a group of people today? It's something to think about. At least 150,000 aboriginal children, almost a third of aboriginal Canadians, were forcibly separated from their parents and communities and raised in these institutions, places where native languages and cultures were banned.
  • Some of these schools were 100 of kilometers away from their homes. If caught speaking their native languages, children would be severely punished. They were often poorly housed and fed. Once at school, they were separated by age and gender and rarely had contact with brothers and sisters. Braided hair, which often had spiritual significance was cut.
  • My older brother had three braids, and when he cut his braids oh, he cried.
  • Embroidered clothing and moccasins were taken away. New names were given, sometimes replaced with just a number. Students often got an education only up to grade five. Many students died from diseases like influenza and tuberculosis.
  • Schools operated on a half-day curriculum, meaning students spent half a day learning and the other half day doing work.
  • [ROOSTER CROWING]
  • Boys would typically get up at 5:30 in the morning and do chores like milking cows, feeding animals, and cutting wood. Girls would sew, do laundry, cook, and clean. Then they would go to religious services and have breakfast. Classes included one hour of religion plus two hours of math, reading, and writing. Students were expected to clean washroom, scrub and wax floors, and do yard work. Some boys learned carpentry and shoe repair.
  • In the evenings, students had a study hour, supper, cleanup, and a short recreation time, prayers, and then bedtime. Life was strictly controlled. If things were not done properly or on time, children were punished.
  • The nuns or the supervisors would come into the dorm to where the kids were crying, and you would think that they would comfort them, but they would slap them.
  • Residential schools had a lasting impact on First Nations individuals, families, and communities.
  • I was told that I was stupid, dumb, lazy, ugly, that I was a savage. I didn't learn anything. I didn't learn anything in that school. The children who returned home brought with them the various abuses they experienced. That has affected their families and communities for generations. Children came home lonely, depressed, and scared. Many had died without ever seeing their parents again.
  • This is one of my childhood friends here. He died from cirrhosis of the liver. So many of these people ended up here at such an early age.
  • I didn't drink sociably. I drank to get drunk. I liked the way my life was-- to get drunk.
  • No one gets out of the North without any scars, whether you are a residential school survivor or not.
  • In 2007, the government of Canada implemented the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons and apologized on behalf of all Canadians to these victims.
  • Mr. Speaker, I stand before you today to offer an apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools. The treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history.
  • He said the policy was a misguided attempt to assimilate the children into the dominant culture and to kill the Indian in the child as Canada's first Prime Minister, John A Macdonald had said.
  • One of the elements of the settlement agreement was the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 7,000 people across Canada told their stories about life in residential school to the commission. It's findings have been shocking, describing a history even worse than most people imagined. As many as 6,000 aboriginal children may have died in these schools. The purpose of the report is to inform all Canadians what happened in the schools.
  • The report was released in June 2, 2015 with 94 recommendations for achieving a full reconciliation between Canada's native and non-native peoples.
  • The reason I wanted to tell my story was because that our young people need to know, and it needs to be told over, and over, and over again so that they understand why we are the way we are.
  • Reconciliation is about relationships. The ultimate goal is to achieve a balance in the relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. As the Seven Grandfather Teachings teach us, we must respect by honoring all creation. We must be honest in situations. We must have humility in thinking things through. We must be wise and cherish knowledge.
  • We must be brave to face a foe with integrity. We must be truthful, and finally, to know love is to know piece.
  • The burden of this experience is properly ours as a government and as a country.
  • My father used to say one to us, truth doesn't need no memory, but one tells truth doesn't tell truth, then you need love and memories.
  • Remembering the children, we now pledge ourselves to speak the truth.
  • Hear our prayer of hope, and guide this country of Canada on a new and different path.
  • While the survivors of residential schools brought us to this point, it is their children, along with all children in this country, who will lead us into the future.
  • My fellow commissioners and I are convinced that for [INAUDIBLE] healing and reconciliation to happen in this country such work must be done as a high, and in some aspects an urgent priority.
  • Aboriginal leaders, church representatives, and government all acknowledge that this is just the beginning of the healing process. There is much more to be done.
  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

TRANSCRIPTS:
Interactive Transcript
Transcript (PDF)

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