Tag Archives: The Indian Residential School System

How to Look at Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Archive

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.

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The Derelict Honourary Chief of the Blood Tribe

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.

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The Continuing Story Of A Continuing Relationship


There was a time when Aboriginal peoples and Europeans newly-arrived to this land conducted affairs between them with mutual respect. There’s no need to romanticize the character of these relations. It was an era of alliances, political intrigue, war, and nastiness. But even warfare indicates respect. It bears an implicit acknowledgement of a foe’s strength and independence. In the initial phase of contact between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of this land, indigenous peoples had the advantages. They knew how to live on the land and how to navigate the rivers and the forests, and in battle there were more of them. Perhaps this is why mutual respect characterized the early relationship. Continue reading The Continuing Story Of A Continuing Relationship