Directed change within Society

Essay by Lauralarocque28High School, 12th gradeA+, November 2014

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Residential Schools Social Change Essay

Laura Larocque

Mrs. Greenwood

To take a child from their family and strip them of their heritage. To teach them new ways not native to their own culture; torture and abuse. In todays society this would be a disgusting act to almost anyone with morals and a sense of knowledge. Society would scream with outrage. However, it was once over looked. A culture was believed inferior to the Canadian Government, and discriminated against. This was due to the assumption that Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal, and hence the idea to educate them was born. The residential school system was then established by the Canadian Government and administered by several churches.

The system had origins in pre-Confederation times, but was primarily active following the passage of the Indian Act in 1876, until the late-20th century. Most aboriginals did not have a choice and were forced into the system.

The number of residential schools reached 80 in 1931 but decreased in the years that followed. The last federally operated residential school was closed in 1996. In total, about 150,000 First Nations children passed through the residential school system, and at least 4,000 of them died while attending the schools.

Residential schools focused on training students for manual labour in agriculture, light industry such as woodworking, and domestic work such as laundry work and sewing. Thus the objective of merging them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream Canadian society, which was viewed as the dominant culture.

It is clear that the schools have been, arguably, the most damaging of the many elements of Canada's colonization of this land's original peoples and, as their consequences still affect the lives of Aboriginal people today, they remain so.

-John S. Milloy,