A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 (Manitoba Studies in Native History)

A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 (Manitoba Studies in Native History)

John S. Milloy

Language: English

Pages: 424

ISBN: 0887556469

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For over 100 years, thousands of Aboriginal children passed through the Canadian residential school system. Begun in the 1870s, it was intended, in the words of government officials, to bring these children into the “circle of civilization,” the results, however, were far different. More often, the schools provided an inferior education in an atmosphere of neglect, disease, and often abuse.
     Using previously unreleased government documents, historian John S. Milloy provides a full picture of the history and reality of the residential school system. He begins by tracing the ideological roots of the system, and follows the paper trail of internal memoranda, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint. In the early decades, the system grew without planning or restraint. Despite numerous critical commissions and reports, it persisted into the 1970s, when it transformed itself into a social welfare system without improving conditions for its thousands of wards. A National Crime shows that the residential system was chronically underfunded and often mismanaged, and documents in detail and how this affected the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

















136 Cruelty, in general, had not, of course, been a rare commodity in the system nor, indeed, was it in the specific form of “ineffective” teaching. The pedagogical norm at the end of the period was apparently not a great advance over what it had been at the beginning. In 1886, Macrae, fresh from his own teacher-training courses, found the pedagogical style in western schools “old fashioned” and “useless so far as Indian schools are concerned. ”137 At St. George’s in 1943, the teaching was still behind the times.

The only effective road to English or French, however, and thus the necessary pre-condition that would facilitate the operation of the multi-faceted strategy of re-socialization, was to stamp out Aboriginal languages within the schools and in the children. Senior staff in the Department had no doubt that it would “be found best to rigorously exclude the use of Indian dialects. ”70 Departmental policy seemed straightforward: “The use of English in preference to the Indian dialect must be insisted upon.

Dickason has suggested, “too costly for the budget-minded department. ”22 Whatever the reason for not extending the colony system, the Department was left with its rather unambitious solution of 1909, which did not address, in any satisfactory way, either the problem of graduates “backsliding” or the challenge of elevating the reserve community. Nevertheless, the Department held to this approach until after the Second World War, though early on it was evident that it was achieving little in the way of success.

Additionally, principals had to strive to recruit up to the maximum number authorized, which might already have been a figure that permitted the overcrowding of the living spaces of the school, as was evident in the case of Crowfoot and many other schools. The pressure that principals worked under to secure adequate funds meant that there was a tendency to be less than careful about the condition of the children they brought into the school. In 1907, the Anglican bishop of Caledonia wanted to turn over Metlakatla to government control because of the anxiety, and perhaps the moral disquiet, that he felt over recruitment.

Scott, newly appointed as Deputy Superintendent General, did no more than “suggest” that McWhinney “be sent at an early date to some other field of work,” and then he let the matter drop. 55 Left unattended by the Department, the situation did not improve. Indeed, Benson soon informed Scott: “Things seem to be going from bad to worse … and it does not seem fair that the Presbyterian Church should wish to saddle the Department with Mr. McWhinney. ” The Department’s Medical Inspector, O. Grain, added his opinion.

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