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Indigenous Studies

Indian Residential Schools

compiled by Molly Burke

Indian residential schools were boarding schools operated by the government and the Christian church. They began operating in the 1870’s and the last one closed in 1996. There were 139 residential schools in Canada that identified with the Indian Residential School (IRS) Settlement Agreement. They operated in every province and territory except for New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. The main goal of residential school was to “kill the Indian in the child.”(1) Indigenous children were often forcibly removed from their families and communities by Indian agents and taken to these schools. When arriving at these ‘schools’ they were made to cut their hair, which held spiritual meaning, forced to bathe in toxic chemicals and forbidden to speak their Indigenous language. Many Indigenous children who attended these schools were sexually, emotionally and physically abused. This included electrocution, public beatings and starvation. Over 150,000 documented children attended residential schools. While the children who died are mostly undocumented, it is estimated that over 6000 Indigenous children died in custody of these schools.

1. Milloy, John s. (1999). A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System 1879–1986University of Manitoba Press.

 

Videos:

Timeline of residential Schools

A short video on intergenerational trauma from residential schools

References/Websites

Union of Ontario Indians (Ed.). (2013). An Overview on the Indian Residential School System. 

Gamez, D. P., & Manuel, A. (Eds.). (2020). The Residential School System.