Residential School

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Residential Schools was the name given to schools in Canada that operated from the second half of the 19th century to 1996. It was internat-like schools that only children of Canadian natives , so the First Nations , the Inuit and the Métis were visited.

These schools should keep the children away from their parents and at the same time from their cultural influence. The use of their respective mother tongue was strictly forbidden, instead they should learn English or French . Associated with this was a general civilization mandate , the driving force of which a commission of inquiry described as “cultural triumphalism”.

In total, there are up to 3,000 institutions that are in the process of being recognized as former residential schools , or that have already been recognized.

Under the aegis of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and based on the Indian Act of 1876, the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869, it was primarily the churches - predominantly the Catholic and the predecessors of the United Church of that received Canada , i.e. Presbyterians , Methodists and Congregationalists - were given the task of running these schools.

There were numerous psychological and physical attacks there, for which both the churches involved have unofficially apologized (e.g. the Catholic Church in 2009) and the Canadian state (2008). But the multi-generational attempt to wipe out entire cultures is seldom condemned as a crime to this day.

The lives of the victims have been marked by these events to this day, even if they are entitled to a certain amount of reparation and sometimes receive psychotherapeutic support.


The later residential schools took their starting point in the French schools of the Catholic missionaries, especially the Jesuits . Already here the needs of the village-urban and rural way of life collided on the one hand and the semi-nomadic way of life on the other. The teachers often complained about the absence of the students, especially during the hunting season; In addition, it was generally difficult to convince the indigenous people of the sense of going to school with the hard means of discipline used at the time. The Anglican schools founded in the early 19th century fared similarly.

Lebret Indian Industrial School in Qu'Appelle Valley, Assiniboia District, Northwest Territories: Parents who want to visit their children camp outside the fence in front of the school (around 1885).

1857 was the Gradual Civilization Act , the Law on the progressive civilization , from the Province of Canada , passed a precursor of Canadian independence. With this law, every indigenous peoples should get 50 acres of land after completing a basic education , but with that he lost all contractual rights. From this point of view, contractual agreements were supposed to be undermined and nomads and semi-nomads to become sedentary farmers.

Canada's first prime minister, John A. Macdonald , broke opposition to public funding of schools by hiring Nicholas Flood Davin to write a Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds who convinced the MPs in 1879.

Edgar Dewdney , Indian commissioner of the Northwest Territories at the time, feared unrest among the starving Indians at the time and wanted to get to the root of the problem. For him that meant, in view of the extinct herds of buffalo, which had previously provided the basic foodstuffs for the prairie Indians, that they had to become farmers. Since the older people resisted, the release of the funding for the schools was a good opportunity. He tried to destroy the tribal system by quickly dividing up the land and monitoring more closely, to which more schools should contribute. His system could force the starving tribes of the prairies to adopt the new way of life, but it only partially reached the less dependent tribes.

The real turnaround didn't come until 1920, when schooling became compulsory for all children between the ages of 7 and 15 across Canada. Only then were the cultural ties between the generations broken. In 1931 there were already 80 residential schools in Canada, in 1948 there were still 72 with a total of 9,368 students. In 1955, there were 11,000 children in 69 schools in Ontario alone. In 2007, almost 1,300 institutions were included in the list of recognized residential schools .

The schools were mostly outside the reserves and were difficult to reach for parents who wanted to visit their children. Many students had no contact with their parents for up to ten months a year. The children were not even allowed to speak to one another in their mother tongue. In this way, numerous languages ​​died out within a generation.

But not “only” the languages ​​were threatened. In 1909, on behalf of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs , Peter Bryce reported that the child mortality rate was extremely high. Five years after entering school, this was 35 to 60%, which was mainly due to the fact that healthy children were taught together with tuberculosis sufferers . It was not until 1922, after Bryce stopped working for the government, that his results were published. FA Corbett confirmed these results between 1920 and 1922, especially with regard to the extremely wide spread of tuberculosis.

Many parents knew the problem, but feared reprisals, and the Canadian Family Allowance Act of 1944 also denied them some kind of child benefit if they did not send these children to school. As a result, with each year of indoctrination, they began to feel the cultural contrasts with their children more clearly. In addition, the children learned things that were of no use in their parents' vicinity. Many statements reflect the fact that the children lost their self-esteem and self-esteem.

For their part, the schools were poorly equipped, and many teachers were not properly trained for their tasks. The conditions were now perceived as so catastrophic that the Ministry ran the schools on its own in 1969 and withdrew them from the churches.

But the parents weren't interested in simply closing schools; they should change. In northern Alberta , parents protested against the closure of the Blue Quills Indian School in 1970 and eventually took it over on their own. In 1979 there were twelve residential schools with a total of 1899 students. The last one closed in Saskatchewan in 1996 .

It was not until the 1990s that the full extent of the ill-treatment came to the fore and before the courts. 1991-1993 a Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples examined the conditions at the residential schools and came to devastating results. In Ontario alone, there had been more than ten thousand brutal assaults, including frequent sexual abuse . In some schools, such as Port Alberni in 1949 , medical experiments were also carried out without parental consent. Overall, the commission found, “no area of ​​its investigation has caused more anger and shame than the history of residential schools ... the incredible damage - loss of life, denigration of culture, destruction of self-esteem and self-esteem, destruction of families, the effects of these trauma on subsequent generations and the enormity of the cultural superiority that lay behind the whole company - will deeply shake anyone who dares to let this story penetrate their consciousness ”.

In 1998, Canada's Minister of Indian Affairs officially apologized to the former students. In previous years, both church and state organizations had tried to stifle any discussion of this topic, e.g. B. with the campaign against Kevin Annett, a former Reverend of the Anglican Church of Canada in Port Alberni , who had taken up the subject.

In 2018, Pope Francis refused to take the role of the Catholic Church as an occasion for an official apology from the institution. Murray Sinclair, head of the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, regretted this; he said it would create a division within the First Nations, between Catholics and other people. For him, the refusal is grist to the mill of those Canadians who consider the residential schools to be no problem at all or who still gloss over their activities today.

The Canadian Monique Gray Smith tried in 2017 in Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation to bring the problem closer to older children and adolescents:

“The overall message to the Indian children was that the traditional way of life of the Indians is inferior to that of the whites ... This contributed to their feeling of shame and a loss of their language, their culture and their self-esteem . "

- Monique Gray Smith, Orca Books, Victoria BC 2017 :

Attempts to make amends

Former residential school in Alert Bay , now owned by the 'Namgis , who are part of the Kwakwaka'wakw on Vancouver Island .

In 1998 the government went public with an attempt at reconciliation. She apologized to everyone who had suffered sexual or other physical and psychological abuse and founded the Aboriginal Healing Foundation , the indigenous healing foundation . First, 350 million dollars , provided the government fired 2,004 again to 40 million. A specially founded department, the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada, is also supposed to offer help to the victims. In addition to the pending proceedings, this proved to be urgently needed, because the problems were much more on the psychological side than had long been assumed. In autumn 2003, after four years of pilot projects, the process of alternative dispute resolution emerged . The churches also participated in making amends by funding therapy facilities for school survivors. In 2001, the Cariboo Anglican Church in British Columbia went bankrupt because it could not pay its portion of reparation.

But it was also about money for lost opportunities in life. On November 23, 2005, the government announced a $ 1.9 billion reparation program for the approximately 80,000 former children. Each victim should receive $ 10,000 for the first year and $ 3,000 for each subsequent year. In addition, provided the application was made between May 30, 2005 and December 31, 2006, $ 8,000 for all over 65s.

The relevant objection periods ended on August 20, 2007. The amounts from this Common Experience Payment have been available since September 19, 2007 . In many cases, however, the authorities have problems finding documents that prove the length of stay in the schools. For many victims, the compensation comes too late.

Newfoundland and Labrador , as later-acceding provinces, had filed a class action lawsuit against the federal government since 2007. In 2017, the federal government agreed to their demand for restitution of 50 million Canadian dollars for the 900 surviving boarding schools in this province. At the same time, Justin Trudeau specifically apologized in 2017 to the victims in this province, which Stephen Harper had left out in his earlier speech.


This type of cultural destruction is repeatedly referred to as “cultural genocide” , and it is a hallmark of many colonial states. But it mainly affects the phase after the dissolution of the huge colonial empires of Great Britain , France , but also Spain , Portugal , Italy , Germany , Belgium and the Netherlands . This has to do with the fact that only the passage of several generations of students through such an uprooting program leads to an extensive fading of cultural memory. Most of the colonial empires were too short-lived for that and began their “efforts” too late. Countries with large indigenous peoples are having much more trouble today to face this still topical question.

As a result, the large states of America and Asia, which have been able to assimilate their indigenous peoples for much longer , have many more problems in approaching the issue with an open mind. There was a similar system in the USA, the Indian Boarding Schools , and in Australia, where people talk about stolen generations .

Recently, for example, the tribes in the United States have achieved similar reparations as they did in Alaska on November 19, 2007 , the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The cases of particularly brutal attacks are still pending before the courts. Today one tries by campaigns against alcohol and other drugs , the depression and violence, often counteract the long-term consequences of these events.

In addition, the educational differences between the assimilated students and those who escaped assimilation for a variety of reasons exacerbated tribal differences. The assimilated Indians dominate the politics of their groups in many places, their opponents often even had to leave the reservation. The suicide rate among these doubly marginalized is considered to be particularly high. On the other hand, their proximity to the metropolitan centers of politics gives them new opportunities to influence.

After all, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized on June 11, 2008, acknowledging: "Today we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, that it has brought great suffering and that it has no place in our country." Government now that the consequences of Indian Residential Schools policies have been fundamentally negative, and that these policies have continued and destructive effects on indigenous culture, heritage and language. ”Also, the government recognized that the lack of an apology is itself the cure and hindered reconciliation. The government also failed to protect the children. The attitudes behind the school system should never prevail again in Canada.

The entire process, i.e. the attempt to wipe out a culture, is still not recognized as a crime.

An Indian Residential School Museum of Canada is now being built .

In 2015, after six years of work and 6750 individual interviews , the Truth and Reconciliation Commission explicitly spoke in the final report of a cultural genocide against the First Nations. The report documents 3201 deaths among the schoolchildren and makes 94 suggestions, including a restructuring of child welfare for the indigenous population, which is still violating civil rights.

On July 9, 2015, Pope Francis apologized for the "grave sins" of the colonial era. Perry Bellegarde, chief of the First Nations Congregation, conceded “moral leadership” to the head of the church on the issue of the school system. His predecessor Benedict XVI. had expressed his “sympathy” (sorrow) with and his solidarity for the victims of abuse in schools in 2009.

The problem in the 29th Canadian cabinet

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regretted Canada's “shameful” treatment of the indigenous peoples at the UN General Assembly in September 2017 . In late November 2017, he traveled to Newfoundland to apologize to indigenous peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador provinces for the injustice that happened to their children in boarding schools in the 20th century. He thus supplemented Harper's apology from 2008. In the state and especially church schools and homes, young indigenous people had been badly treated from the late 19th century and until 1996, and many were also sexually abused.

On October 6, 2017, the 29th Canadian cabinet under Trudeau promised to pay damages to the surviving victims of the "Sixties Scoop", the forcible, mostly violent, removal of children of the autochthons in the amount of 750 million Canadian dollars. From 1960 until well into the 1980s, around 20,000 children were snatched away from their parents by the state under this program. They have been given to white families for adoption or as foster children, some even to the United States and Europe and New Zealand . The government's October 2017 response is in response to a series of victim lawsuits; those affected complained of mental and emotional problems as a result of the removal, not to mention the loss of their own culture. A number of the victims complained of sexual abuse in foster families. The minister responsible, Carolyn Bennett, officially determined the amount of the damage in court.

For the children who were abducted to clerical homes against the will of their parents, a total of 150,000 people, a separate agreement was made in court with their own additional compensation. A higher judge responsible for Ontario , Edward P. Belobaba, had already named the crimes against the children in a preliminary ruling in February 2017, thus putting the government under pressure:

“The court has no doubt that great harm has been done to you. The "displaced" children lost all contact with their families. They lost their nation's language, culture and identity. Neither the children nor their foster or adoptive parents received the slightest information about the actual origin of the children, or about the educational or other services that they were entitled to receive. The forcibly resettled children practically disappeared without leaving any trace. "

- Edward P. Belobaba, judge, preliminary decision February 2017 :

According to one of the victim's lawyers, Jeffrey Wilson, it is the first time in a Western country that the state and church struggle against the cultural identity of children from the First Nations has been branded a crime in a trial.


  • Kevin Annett: Hidden from History. The Canadian Holocaust. The untold Story of the Genocide of Aboriginal Peoples by Church and State in Canada. Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada 2001; 2nd edition, Vancouver 2005
  • Jean Barman, Yvonne Hébert, Don McCaskill (Eds.): Indian Education in Canada. Volume 1: The Legacy (= Nakoda Institute Occasional Papers, 2). University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver 1986 ISBN 0-7748-0243-X
  • Martha Black: Where the Heart is: From a Conversation with Tsa-Qwa-supp. In: Alan L. Hoover (Ed.): Nuu-Chah-Nulth Voices, Histories, Objects & Journeys. Royal British Columbia Museum , Victoria 2000 ISBN 0-7718-9548-8 , pp. 341-351 (2nd printing, ibid. 2002)
  • Nicola I. Campbell: Shin-chi's Canoe. Pictures by Kim LaFave. Groundwood Books, Toronto 2008 ISBN 978-0-88899-857-6 (children's book)
  • W. Churchill: Kill the Indian, Save the Man: The Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools. City Lights Publishers, San Francisco 2010
  • Brendan Frederick R. Edwards: Paper Talk. A history of libraries, print culture, and Aboriginal peoples in Canada before 1960. Scarecrow Press, Lanham Md 2005 ISBN 0-8108-5113-X , pp. 341-351
  • Henri Goulet: Histoire des pensionnats indiens catholiques au Québec. Le rôle déterminant des pères oblats. Presses Université de Montréal PUM, 2016 ( Link to the scan of the book: click on "feuilleter cette ouvrage")
  • Celia Haig-Brown: Resistance and Renewal. Surviving the Indian Residential School. Tillacum Library, Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver 1988 ISBN 0-88978-189-3
  • Alfred Hendricks (Ed.): Indians of the Northwest Coast. Change and Tradition. (First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. Change and Tradition.) Westfälisches Museum für Naturkunde , Münster 2005 ISBN 3-924590-85-0 (book accompanying a series of exhibitions). In it: p. 142 Into the light. RS survivors report , text by J. Windh; P. 148ff .: 16 conversations with survivors of the schools in Vancouver, interviews conducted by Jacqueline Windh. Photos of the interviewees. (Bilingual German-English)
  • K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Teresa L. McCarty: "To remain an Indian". Lessons in democracy from a century of Native American education. Teachers College Press, New York 2006 ISBN 0-8077-4716-5
  • James R. Miller: Shingwauk's Vision. A History of Native Residential Schools. University of Toronto Press, 1996 ISBN 0-8020-0833-X
  • John S. Milloy: "A National Crime". The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. (= Manitoba Studies in Native History, 11) University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg 1999 ISBN 0-88755-646-9 ; Reprint 2017
  • Kady O'Malley: Pierre Poilievre shows his empathy for residential school survivors. Macleans, 2008 Online
  • P. Reagan: Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling and Reconciliation in Canada. UBC Press, Vancouver 2010
  • Anne-Marie Reynaud: Emotions, Remembering and Feeling Better: Dealing with the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. Transcript , Bielefeld 2017. Zugl. Diss. Phil. FU Berlin 2016
  • Brent Stonefish: Moving beyond. Understanding the impact of residential school. Ningwakwe Learning Press, Owen Sound 2007 ISBN 978-1-89683-281-4
  • S. Trevithick: Native Residential Schooling in Canada: A Review of Literature. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 18, 1998, pp. 49-86
  • Doro Wiese: Violence in the boarding school. Crimes against First Nations children in Canada. Sheets of the Iz3w , 351, 2015, p. 12f.
  • Tomson Highway: The Fur Queen's Kiss. An Indian way of life today. Translated by Thomas Bauer. (Kiss of the fur queen). Frederking & Thaler , Munich 2001 (for secondary literature, see this book at Deutsche Nationalbibliographie ); autobiographical
  • Nadim Roberts: Mangilaluk's Highway, in Granta, # 141: Canada , London 2017 ISBN 1909889105 ISSN  0017-3231 pp. 21 - 39 full text . Original contribution.
  • Richard Wagamese: Indian Horse. Milkweed, Minneapolis 2018
  • Joseph Auguste Merasty (Augie), David Carpenter: The Education of Augie Merasty. A Residential School Memoir. University of Regina Press, 2017
  • Theodore Fontaine: Broken Circle: The Dark Legacy of Indian Residential Schools: A Memoir. Heritage House Publ. Victoria (British Columbia) 2010. Contemporary witness report
State document
  • The Government of Canada - Truth and Reconciliation Commission: They came for the children: Canada, aboriginal peoples, and the residential schools. Ottawa, 2012 access, optional English, French (also as print)



  • Joseph Boyden: Going Home Star. Truth and Reconciliation. Commissioned for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, EA 2014, afterwards Canada-wide performances.

See also

Web links


  1. ^ Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples - Commission royale sur les peuples autochtones 1996. Canada Communication Group, Vol. 1, Ottawa, p. 579: the enormity of the cultural triumphalism that lay behind the enterprise . Print edition: engl. ISBN 0662204662 ; French ISBN 0662982037 ; also published in Inuktitut , Cree and Ojibwe each with ISBN.
  2. A list of around 3,000 residential schools approval procedures that were decided or pending by February 13, 2009 can be found here (PDF, 268 kB): Decision (PDF; 271 kB).
  3. At the end of April 2009, Pope Benedict XVI. expressed his "personal regret" for the suffering in a private audience when speaking to an Indian delegation. Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools, in: CBC, April 29, 2009 . In 2018, Pope Francis expressly refused an official apology.
  4. See Robert Carney: Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation: The Early Experience. In: Canadian Catholic Historical Association, Historical Studies 61 (1995) 13-40, digital: ( PDF ).
  5. This and the following from: JR Miller: Shingwauk's vision: A history of Canadian residential schools , University of Toronto Press 1996.
  6. ^ See: History of Indian Residential Schools ( Memento of May 3, 2010 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. ^ David Napier: Ottawa experimented on Native kids. , In: Anglican Journal, May 1, 2000.
  8. ^ Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Canada Communication Group, Ottawa 1996, Vol. 1, p. 601f .: "No segment of our research aroused more outrage and shame than the story of the residential schools ... the incredible damage - loss of life, denigration of culture, destruction of self-respect and self-esteem, rupture of families, impact of these traumas on succeeding generations, and the enormity of the cultural triumphalism that lay behind the enterprise - will deeply disturb anyone who allows this story to seep into their consciousness. "Quoted from: Kathrin Wessendorf: The Indigenous World 2009 , April 2009, p. 59. For the original of the report, see note 1 (online or print with ISBN)
  9. A film about this: [1]
  10. [2] CTV , March 28, 2018
  11. Propr. Trans. Review in Quill & Quire , July 25, 2017.
  12. ^ CBC report of December 30, 2001 .
  13. The form can be found here: website of the IRSRC, Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement ( Memento of February 12, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). The application deadline was September 19, 2011.
  14. ^ Newfoundland and Labrador Residential Schools settlement agreement
  15. This omission was based on the province's accession to the Canadian state only in 1949, which would have made statements about the responsibility of the federal government for earlier years meaningless.
  16. On February 21, 2008, 30 First Nations from Manitoba requested Queen Elizabeth II to apologize for the offenses through a fair and dignified apology. See Manitoba First Nations ask Queen for apology, CBC News, Feb. 21, 2008 ( June 5, 2008 memento on the Internet Archive ). The then Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Chuck Strahl has already indicated that he would like to apologize in just as appropriate form, like the Australian government .
  17. Jesuits pay $ 50 million in compensation ,
  18. Hidden from History regularly brings up-to-date articles, such as the occupation of an Anglican church in Vancouver in May 2007, where the organization Friends of the Disappeared reclaimed the corpses of numerous children and asked for information about their fate.
  19. The verbatim text is provided by, for example, the Text of Harper's apology - World News Australia ( Memento of September 14, 2008 in the Internet Archive ). The translated passage reads: "Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country." And "The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian residential schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact on aboriginal culture, heritage and language. "and" The government recognizes that the absence of an apology has been an impediment to healing and reconciliation. ". The answers of 2 representatives of the First Nations at Pleßl, s. Weblinks, p. 65ff.
  20. See however the lawyer Jeffrey Wilson 2017, who sees such a very first recognition in a legal agreement from October 2017. See below
  21. ^ New York Times: Canada's Forced Schooling of Aboriginal Children Was 'Cultural Genocide,' Report Finds , June 2, 2015
  22. ^ Pope Francis Apology Prompts Calls for Direct Address to School Survivors in Canada , in: Indian Country, July 11, 2015.
  23. ^ Pope expresses 'sorrow' for abuse at residential schools , CBC News, April 29, 2009.
  24. German for example: the Schüblinge of the 60s
  25. Own trans.
  26. in English , according to Wikinews
  27. ^ Nicola I. Campbell ( Memento from May 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ).
  28. Review, English. Further original sources are linked in the appendix
  29. ^ Residential school film plays Bay Street Film Festival ( Memento from November 2, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  30. the answers from National Chief Phil Fontaine and from Beverly Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, in the House of Commons, at Pleßl, Vienna 2009, see web links
  31. Joseph Boyden wades into 'very sacred' territory with residential school ballet . Retrieved February 1, 2016., CBC
  32. In written form: see below, Master's thesis Pleßl, Vienna 2009, p. 63ff.
  33. in the documentary appendix p. 63ff .: Prime Minister Harper's apology on behalf of the State of Canada for the system of residential schools; responses from National Chief Phil Fontaine and President Beverly Jacobs of the Native Women's Association of Canada ; in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008 (English).
  34. It was only after my book was published that I found out from a retired unit manager from CBC Radio why it had been so easy for my father (sc. A Serbian, anti-communist terrorist in Canada in the 1970s) to arrive in Canada. He told me that Inco Limited targeted anti-communists from the Eastern Bloc and even old Nazis in the 1940s and 1950s. They should serve as human bulwarks against unions and strike movements. Bunjevac, b. 1974 in Toronto. From 1975 to 1990 she lived with her mother in Yugoslavia; at 16 she returned to Canada. She writes: “In school we learned a lot about Canada's colonial past and knew the horror stories about biological warfare against the indigenous peoples; But there was hardly any talk about the terrible residential schools, the so-called Indian boarding schools (the last one was closed in 1980), the social isolation and poverty in the reservations (the youth suicide rate is still highest here today), alcohol abuse, land grabbing, Murder and kidnapping. It was not until June 2015 that the events in the residential schools, in which an estimated 6,000 children died as a result of untreated diseases and abuse, were recognized as cultural genocide . Why did we (sc. The Canadians) take so long for this small step? "