While most of us think of schools as a social good, in the history of some people, that has not been the case. Among Canada’s indigenous people, those we have come to call “Indians,” schools have become a place of pain, sorrow, and loss. For the better part of a century, these schools called residential schools were where indigenous children came to be whipped, punished, and traumatized for the sin of not being white. First run by the government, by the Roman Catholic church, these schools became a site of horror, torture, and death. Recently, the ground surrounding the residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia revealed the graves of over 200 indigenous children.
Subsequent searches have found hundreds of other children around so-called “residential schools.” I recently read a book by native leader, George Manuel, 19 21, 1989 entitled “The Fourth World” published in 1974, who wrote of his school years in the following way:
“Three things stand out in my mind, hunger, speaking English, and being called because of my grandfather. On the day we arrived at the school each new boy was assigned an interpreter who was a senior student. All the teachers were monks or devout lay catholics. We call them brothers. In my first meeting with brothers, he showed me a long black leather strap and told me through my interpreter ‘If you are ever caught speaking Indian, this is what you will get across your hands’
– Manuel, 1963-64
Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada a site of genocide schools.