Compared with their parents, children know more about boarding schools, but experts say it can’t be “one-off”


Warning: This story contains painful details.

Growing up, Joy Henderson did not learn about Canada’s boarding school system at school, but through stories shared by her family. She knows this topic has been explored in her son’s class since then, but she thinks it is only “a little better” than her days as a student.

“Usually it is covered up because educators are worried about touching these traumatic topics. So they are like’OK, this is a boarding school. They are terrible, but we won’t go into the details,'” said Henderson in Toronto Black Lakota parents from Scarborough in the east.

In late May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced that the preliminary findings came from A survey of the site of the former Kamloops Indian boarding school in British Columbia revealed that there are an estimated 215 children’s remains at the scene.

The distressing discovery led to Emotional distress in Aboriginal communities and new trauma for survivorsThe shock and surprise expressed by many Canadians has also reignited discussions about the knowledge gap that some people still have in boarding schools and the country’s relationship with the indigenous people.

Joy Henderson, the parent of Black-Lakota in Scarborough, Toronto’s eastern region, said that many times, knowledge of boarding schools was “obscured because educators were worried about these traumatic topics.” (Craig Cheevers/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

Between 1831 and 1997, more than 150,000 Aboriginal, Métis, and Inuit children were forced to attend boarding schools established and managed by the church and the Canadian government to integrate them into a European-centric culture. According to death records, more than 4,100 children died in boarding schools. National Truth and Reconciliation CenterHowever, the true total may be higher.

In 2015, The Committee issued 94 calls to action As part of its final report, the history and legacy of the Canadian boarding school system are recorded. Four measures specifically target the education sector. TRC calls on governments to work with survivors, Aboriginal groups, and educators to develop mandatory, age-appropriate courses for K-12 students on boarding schools, treaties, and Aboriginal contributions to Canada (past and present), and Provide funding for teacher training.

Today, students might mark September 30th as Orange shirt day Or please note that June is the month of indigenous history. However, some experts and parents said that there is still a lot of work to be done to learn more accurately about indigenous history and culture in school curricula.

“You have to face the history of your country and the system you benefit from-so teachers have to do this work within themselves,” said Henderson, a child and adolescent care practitioner.

Need to keep learning

Educator Rachel Mishenene, a member of Mishkeegogamang First Nation and Eabametoong First Nation from Northwestern Ontario, said that many Canadians have knowledge gaps about boarding schools and the relationship between indigenous peoples and Canada. There are many kinds.

The fact that many generations of Canadians learned little about Aboriginal people, their history or culture—or just learned from a colonial perspective—is a major factor in school. However, the other is the willingness to continue learning and challenge myself today, she said.

Watch | Aboriginal educators ask citizens to consider: “What does it mean to be Canadian?”

Canadians must learn more about the relationship between Aboriginal people and Canada in order to explore “what exactly Canadians are like,” said Aboriginal educator Rachel Mishenene. 1:23

Like Henderson, Mishenene did not learn about boarding schools in elementary or middle school classes. She recalled from her home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, that any brief curriculum involving indigenous peoples in the school was trivial and “written from a non-indigenous colonial perspective.”

After studying Aboriginal law and education, Mishenene was engaged in teaching, and over the years brought Aboriginal history, culture, and perspectives into the courses she taught her students. She also carried out training for other educators. In 2018, she won the honor of aboriginal educator Enlighten Awards, annual celebration of indigenous excellence.

She said that in the past ten years, the Canadian Bureau of Education and the Ministry of Education have changed, adding more Aboriginal content to textbooks and classroom resources, and providing teachers with professional development. However, she emphasized that this change in learning style must continue.

“I really hope that at some point the government can truly take truth and reconciliation as part of the curriculum, not only for students but also for teachers,” said Michener, who now serves as the executive director of the International Indigenous Program. Right to Play, a non-profit organization.

“This cannot be a one-off. Aboriginal education is not iconic, it is a real priority for the government and the education sector: to provide teachers with support and learning opportunities.”

Watch | How to talk to your child about boarding school:

Indigenous educator Rachel Misehene talked about why it is important to have a dialogue with students about current events, including what we found in Kamloops BC and how we are going forward. 1:46

Hope for the future

When Gail Higginbottom and Danica Weager were studying in Kootenay Lake School District, British Columbia, they also had very few indigenous representatives in their studies . Now, as educators in the same area, they are part of a team that injects indigenous perspectives into the education system.

Their work ranges from supporting individual students to bringing elders and holders of traditional knowledge into the classroom, organizing district-wide activities such as powwows, and incorporating courses on the structure of the tippi circle into grade 10 or grade 11 mathematics.

“Our system cannot now choose not to include the ways of understanding indigenous people. The times have changed a lot,” said Higginbottom, head of the indigenous education district. “Decades ago, when I was in school, almost no one knew who I was.”

She responded to the words of retired Senator Murray Sinclair, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that Education is the way to cure“I believe in the power of education,” said Higginbottom. Her father is from the Secwépemc territory and her mother is of Scottish and Irish descent.

Watch | Why today’s students bring hope to these indigenous educators

British Columbia educators Gail Higginbottom and Danica Weager shared how the current generation of students’ understanding of Aboriginal history, culture and contributions makes them hopeful for the future. 2:04

Weager, the indigenousization coordinator for the region, recalled that when she was in high school in the early 2000s, the indigenous education program was still in its infancy—but it was only open to indigenous students. She recalled that once in the 11th grade social studies, a classroom discussion evolved into Wegg’s teaching her peers-and her mentor-about boarding school “I knew very little from the time, only from my own research. And my knowledge. Family.”

Looking back on the educational progress since she and Higginbottom went to school, Wegg—her mother is from the Peggs First Nations and her father is settler-born—looks forward optimistically.

“I am full of hope for the development of aboriginal education and aboriginal education in the next 10 years,” she said. “I am hopeful for the development of non-indigenous allies in the next 10 years.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, and it is happening.”


Anyone affected by the boarding school experience and those affected by the latest report can get support.

A nationwide Indian boarding school crisis hotline has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can call the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419 for emotional and crisis referral services.



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