Photo: Rupert’s Land Indian Industrial School / later St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, 1901. Library and Archives Canada PA-182251.
WITH VERY few exceptions, the men and women who created and sustained Canada’s Indian Residential School System believed that the policy of “aggressive assimilation”* was benevolent and forward-looking. The absorption of the Indian into Canadian society, necessary to possess land and resources and to build a nation-state, was the desired outcome of policies and the final solution of the Indian Problem envisioned by Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott. The policy of assimilation neither began nor ended with the Indian Residential School System. The program of assimilation continues to this day, for the simple reason that nation-building, from sea to shining sea, continues.
It’s been more than a few years now since my afternoon Calgary chat with a Kainai (Blood) acquaintance, but I do remember a bit of the history lesson I received that day. One thing I recall above all else is a sensation of correspondence: the Haudenosaunee have the largest population within Canada’s borders, the Kainai the largest land base; the Haudenosaunee are known to be of an independent cast of mind, so too I gathered from my interlocutor the Kainai. (The name is pronounced “Ken-Eye,” and fittingly means something like Many Chiefs.) I left the conversation that day rather feeling a sense of kinship, which is unusual for me in most any social encounter.
Posted in First Nations
Tagged Aboriginal Peoples, AFN, Assembly of First Nations, Blood Tribe, Canada, Indigenous Peoples, Kainai, Politics, Ralph Klein, Stephen Harper, The Indian Residential School System, White Paper