Mimi Jimmy Women in World Religion Winter Quarter 2006 Residential Schools in the United States and Canada

In the U.S. and Canada, the Residential School System’s main education policies were replacing Native traditional languages with English, destroying Native traditional customs, and instilling Euro-centric values and morals so that Natives could enter into the expanding European civilization. They were designed to remove children at a very young age from their families which then isolated them from their traditional languages and tribal influences. With the residential schools of North America came the intergenerational impacts on Native peoples and the Residential School Syndrome. They implemented non-traditional lifestyles with all kinds of abuses normalized in Native communities. While the schools impacted Native peoples as a whole, women have and are suffering the most as a result. The residential schools developed from an experiment of Native prisoners done by Lt. Richard Pratt and modeled after the Hampton Institute. Lt. Richard Pratt, an Indian wars veteran, began teaching Native prisoners the English language with heavy doses of Christianity. Prat took 17 adult native prisoners of war to the Hampton Institute. The primary goal of the Hampton Institute was to educate freed slaves to be teachers so they could become the teachers of other freed slaves. With the experiment’s success, the first off-reservation residential school, the Carlisle Indian School, was established in 1879, it began in unused military quarters located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Joel Spring states the Carlisle Indian School slogan was, “To civilize the Indian, get him into civilization. To keep him civilized, let him stay” (144). Within three decades of the Carlisle Indian School, 500 more schools opened and were run by various churches and missionary societies which had the authority to act on behalf of the government, appointing all

Indian agents and hiring personnel. Many of these off-reservation residential schools were located hundreds of miles from any of the reservations. While some colonizers advocated outright physical extermination, the schools were to solve the “Indian problem” and Prat thought it was wiser to “Kill the Indian and save the man” (Smith). Education became mandatory for Native Children in 1893 and reservations were childless except for babies and toddlers. If families refused to send their children to school the Indian agents could withhold their food rations or send them to jail. While slower in pursuit, the Canadian government adopted Pratt’s model of the residential school system. The Canadian government’s policies also included the destruction of Native culture, values and religion. Like the U.S., the Canadian government funded religious institutions such as the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada so that they could establish the residential schools. The Roman Catholic Church ran about 60% of the schools in Canada (The Economist par. 5). With the help of churches, the assimilation process began. Sometimes children were kidnapped and taken long distances from their communities to the schools. Many children spent their entire childhood in the residential schools that ran on minimum budgets. The children were given Anglo names and in some schools children were given a number in place of their Anglo names. Andrea Smith of Amnesty Magazine said that “school staff sheared children’s hair, banned traditional clothing and customs, and forced children to worship as Christian” (par. 11). The children were segregated into gender and age groups in compliance with the grade levels. Minimal contact between siblings of either sex was preferred and tightly regulated. The schools adopted a “half and half” system, where half the day was academic studies and the other half were school chores. Family visits were held at bay with the

children only returning home during the summer months and maybe a time at Christmas. Sometimes the students would not return home but were recommended to stay with “good white” families in order to earn money and experience the great civilized society and the Christianity benefits. At all costs, eliminating the traditional languages and customs were top priority for residential schools, and there were extensive punishments for uncooperative children. In residential schools, physical and sexual abuses were normal and applied to the “heathen” children while instilling good morals and civilized behavior. At the First National Conference of Residential Schools in June 1991, some recollections of punishments were: sticking needles through tongues of children, often leaving them in place for extended periods of time, inserting needles into other regions of children’s anatomy, burning or scalding children, beating children into unconsciousness, beating children to the point of inflicting serious permanent or semi-permanent injuries, including broken arms, broken legs, broken ribs, fractured skulls, shattered eardrums, using electrical shock devices on physically restrained children and forcing sick children to ear their own vomit (qtd. in Dark Night Field Notes, par. 10). In the BC Medical Journal it also states children being forced to kneel on broken glass in front of a cross with a needle propped under their tongues as punishment for speaking their own language (78-81). In Social Justice, Lisa Poupart reports “Boarding school teachers, staff, priests and administrators often physically and sexually abused students, justifying these violations as disciplinary measures. In several boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada, 60 to 70% of all students were beaten or raped. The staff and administrators also forced Indian children to administer assaults upon each other (par. 51). “A 2001 report by the Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada documents the responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church, the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the federal government in the deaths of

more than 50,000 Native children in the Canadian residential school system. The report says church officials killed children by beating, poisoning, electric shock, starvation, prolonged exposure to sub-zero cold while naked, and medical experimentation, including the removal of organs and radiation exposure and…grounds of several schools contain unmarked graveyards of murdered school children, including babies born to native girls raped by priests and other church officials in the school” (Smith, par. 20). Generations of Native children attended residential schools away from families for most of their life while experiencing such abuses. Abuses of past generations of Native children and the separation from families have created an intergenerational impact on contemporary Native families and communities; where many suffer from the Residential School Syndrome which is very similar to the post-traumatic stress syndrome. The residential school was a war on the children and left many scars that have been internalized for generations. Wherearethechildren.ca define “intergenerational impacts in the native communities as the unresolved trauma of native peoples who experienced or witnessed physical or sexual abuse n the residential school system is passed on from generation to generation”(par. 1). Embedded in generations of Native people are the normalization of sexual and physical abuse and what is considered normal in our lives, we pass on to our children. Charles R. Brasfield, MD, PhD, wrote in the BC Medical Journal that “Both residential school syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder share criteria that the person has undergone or witnessed some degree of trauma and that his or her response was fearful or helpless. The two diagnoses share requirements of re-experiencing, avoidance, and increased arousal. The residential school syndrome diagnosis is different from that of post-traumatic stress disorder in that there is a significant cultural impact and a persistent tendency to abuse alcohol or other drugs that is particularly associated with violent outbursts of anger. The residential school

syndrome diagnosis also highlights possible deficient parenting skills” (78-71). With generations of Native peoples spending most of their young lives away from family and growing up in a segregated, destructive environment; the children grew up with no experience of human love or the family unit. These generations of residential schooled people did not learn the ability of parenting skills and abuses into native communities have brought on the struggles that we continue to face today. Throughout the U.S. and Canada contemporary Native communities, whether they are reservations or urban communities, many people face similar struggles that were not part of the traditional lifestyle. Some of the struggles within communities are high rates of divorce and poverty, low rates of education and employment, alcoholism, family violence, sexual and physical abuse, incest, fetal alcohol syndrome, homicide and suicide. Smith states, “By the end of the 1990s, the sexual assault rate among Native Americans was three-and-a-half times higher than any other ethnic group in the U.S...and…alcoholism in Native communities is currently six times higher that the national average” (par. 18) The Indian Report of 2000, states “One in 99 American Indians is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, while nationally the average is one in 500”(par. 1). Schoolnet.ca reports, “the cross-Canada average of the percentage of aboriginal children that complete grade 12 is about 20% and even lower in northern regions” (par. 14). These struggles of individuals and family units remain today in Native communities but the women have suffered the most with the loss of traditional lifestyles. In traditional lifestyles, women had high statuses and most native communities were matriarchal and matrilineal but in contemporary communities today many face grave dangers. Mabel Nipshank said that, “Women shaped the social structure and held decision-making power….The Residential School Syndrome nd the destruction of the matriarchal system have led

to the normalization of violence” (par. 1-5). News from Indian Country states, “1 out of 3 Native American women are raped in their lifetime” (par. 9) The Native Women’s Association of Canada, “estimates over the past twenty years more than 500 Indigenous women may have been murdered or gon missing in circumstances suggesting violence…and…Indigenous women between the ages of 25 and 44 were five times more likely than all other women of the same age to die as the result of violence” (qtd in Stolen Sisters Report, p. 2-4). In the firstnationsddrum.com winter issue, it states that Indigenous women are considered luck to survive past the age of 30” (par. 13). With inadequate education, employment opportunities and housing resources for Native women; many face homelessness and sometimes turn to prostitution. The Stolen Sisters Report says that “more than 30% of sex workers surveyed were Indigenous women, although Indigenous people make up less than 2% of cities’ population” (par. 9). With the traditional lifestyles in the past; many Native women face all the struggles of Native communities with a higher risk of violence. The U.S. and Canadian Governments and their residential school systems failed at the attempt to tear culture away from Native American peoples. It did however introduce nontraditional lifestyles and the normalization of abuses into Native American communities. Native American peoples and especially the women are at risk for cycles of abuse and poverty but are very resilient and continue to struggle and survive today through the hardships of the past government mistakes. With the knowledge of the residential school legacies, Native people have taken the steps to the path of healing with the acknowledgment of the Canadian Government and affiliated churches. “A nation is not defeated until the hearts of its women are on the ground” Cheyenne proverb.

Works Cited Smith, Andrea. Amnesty International USA. 2006. 8 Mar. 2006 <http://www.amnestyusa.org/amnestynow/soulwound.html> Spring, Joel. The American School 1642-1993. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994 “Canada-Tales out of School.” The Economist (US). Oct 28, 2000: 36 Proyect, Louis. “THE CIRCLE GAME: Shadows and Substances in the Indian Residential School Experience in Canada; by Roland Chrisjohn and Sherri Young, with Michael Maraun” Dark Field Notes Nov. 2001: 65 “Native Education: For the Next Generation” Indian Report. Oct 2000:p1 “Residential School Issues” 2 Mar 2006 <http://www.schoolnet.ca/autochtone/issues/schools-e.html> Nipshank, Mabel. “Aboriginal Women: No Rights to Land or Children” Education Wife Assualt. 3 Mar. 2006 <http://www.womanabuseprevention.com/html/aboriginal_women.html> Oleman, Michelle. “Amnesty Demands Action to stop Violence Against Native Women.” First Nations Drum. 3 Mar 2006 <http://www.firstnationsdrum.com/Winter%202005/WomAmnesty.htm> “STOLEN SISTERS: Discrimination and Violence against Indigenous Women in Canada” Amnesty International. Norrel, Brenda. “Native Women are prey; Communities and courts fail Native women” News From Indian Country Dec 2003: p 9