The creation of Residential Schools across Canada began in the 1600s as a manifestation of colonization. The first boarding school for indigenous children was established by Franciscans in the territory known as New France in 1620. By the 1800s, these church-run establishments were referred to as industrial schools . In keeping with the times, children were mainly taught farming and domestic skills.

By 1867, Indian education became a federal responsibility according to the British North America Act. This was followed by the Indian Act (1876) in which indigenous children became wards of the government. This is how church-run schools became government funded. Children were forcefully removed from their families and converted. The goal was to assimilate the Indigenous population by limiting access to culture: language and family ties.
This method of training a work force was common practice in other colonized territories (i.e. Africa, Australia, South America, etc.) and often led to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse.

The labour program was gradually phased out and finally replaced by a standard curriculum in the 1950s. This system was kept in place until 1970 when the National Indian Brotherhood called for an end to federal control of Indigenous schooling: towards self determination and control… However, it took another 20 years until the last residential school was officially closed. The last residential school, near Regina, closed its doors in 1996.

2023 Gathering


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