Long before Europeans came to North America, aboriginal people had a highly developed system of education. There was a great deal for aboriginal children to learn before they could survive on their own. Aboriginal elders and parents passed on not only survival skills to their children, but their history, artistic ability, music, language, moral and religious values. When European missionaries began to live amongst aboriginal people, they concluded that the sooner they could separate children from their parents, the sooner they could prepare aboriginal people to live a civilized (i.
e. European) lifestyle.
Residential schools were established for two reasons: separation of the children from the family and the belief that aboriginal culture was not worth preserving. Most people concluded that aboriginal culture was useless and dying and all human beings would eventually develop and change to be like the ‘advanced’ European civilization. Early residential schools were similar to religious missions. Later, the mission-run schools were administered jointly by Canadian churches and the federal government, and for a number of years, residential schools became official Canadian policy for the education of Indian.
Provincial education curriculums did not change to reflect the educational needs of aboriginal children. The elders in fact seen a major change in the way the children were acting, they would refuse to do chores and would often talk back and often became violant. The school demanded very little in comparison. Loneliness, sickness, confusion and abuse all had to be borne in lonely silence. Aboriginal children continue to have difficulties fitting in to the existing schools, which are still designed around a culture alien to their own.
They were issued clothes and assigned a bed number.
Aboriginal people have demanded, and received, official apologies from the Anglican, United and Roman Catholic churches which operated residential schools. All of this must have been a staggering shock to the new “student” . Many things combined to make the experience difficult for young aboriginal children. After several years away at school, children often found it difficult to speak their mother tongue. The residential school experience continues to plague First Nations education. The white man’s school contradicted everything these aboriginal children had learned at home.
“The organization of the schools and the content of the curriculum conveyed to aboriginal children that the human values, the political institutions, the spiritual practices and the economic strategies of other Canadians were infinitely superior to the “primitive” ways of their traditional lifestyles. ” Students began to believe that the ceremonies and rituals which harmonized the spiritual and social life of the community and gave its members a sense of personal significance and group identity, were “heathen” and “the work of the Devil.
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