“To the approximately 80,000 living former students, and all family members and communities, the government of Canada now recognizes that it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and we apologize for having done this.”
- Stephen Harper, June 11, 2008
As I watched the T.V segment “It’s Time”, from the 8th Fire documentary series, I found myself experiencing a wide range of emotions. I laughed along with Howie Miller’s comedic approach to some of the absurd stereotypes Aboriginal people face in our society and I watched with curiosity at the people’s strong reactions to John Lagimodiere’s focus group in Saskatoon. What impacted me the most, however, was how emotional I became during the discussions of the child abuse that occurred at residential schools and how emotional I still become even as I write this log.
During my first student teaching placement I taught a unit on First Nations People and the Treaty Process as part of the Grade Ten geography course. Being a history major with a specialization in Western Canadian Prairie History in my undergrad, I was familiar with the content of the unit because I had learned it through the many courses I took while at university. What is important about that statement, however, is that I learned that content for the first time at the post-secondary level and not while I was attending public high school. As such, I put a lot of effort into that unit to ensure that my students would leave with a well-rounded perspective on issues such as treaty negotiations, reservations, residential schools and the impact that these issues had on Aboriginal communities and culture. Although it crossed my mind that these were issues that are sometimes seen as controversial, and contradictory to what some Canadians were taught in the past, it never once crossed my mind that it should not be included.
As a teacher with a Social Studies background I put a great deal of effort into presenting information from all sides of the story and staying away from the “Hidden Curriculum” that has so often plagued our school systems. It is my passion to see students enjoying school and being engaged in their learning and I think that this is a statement that is true for most teachers I have come across. As such, the conscious assimilation and abuse that occurred at residential schools is not only profoundly upsetting to me but infuriating and disgusting. Not one teacher in our program would ever imagine interacting with their students in the manner that those teachers interacted with their students and I am deeply saddened for everyone who was involved in the residential school process.
Thomas Moore, 1897.
Student of the Regina Indian Industrial School.
These photos were included in the Department of Indian Affairs Annual Report as a means of showing the "progress" that could be made on Indian children if they were part of the residential school system.
*Photo Credit: Shaping Canada Teachers Guide
If I were to discuss the T.V segment “It’s Time” with someone else I would definitely recommend it as it approaches Aboriginal issues in a frank manner that is not only informational but it paves the way for good quality discussion of the issues. As a teacher, I was immediately drawn to the piece on residential schools but it also discusses Aboriginal portrayal in the media, treaty negotiations, stereotypes and economics. “It’sTime” and the 8th Firedocumentary series as a whole is a must watch for Canadian citizens; from the elderly who grew up with a very different viewpoint than what is blossoming today down to the most impressionable child who is the future of the new relationship between Aboriginal people and Canada.
*See my post on Wab Kinew, the host of the 8th Fire Documentary Series.