Monday, January 23, 2017

On the other side of the Fence: Residential schools

  Residential schools were one of history’s most cruel events to have taken place. In Canada, Residential schools had taken hundreds of innocent First Nations children away from their families and traditional lives. They were forced to forget their native languages, culture, and identity against their wills. Many schools were said to be run by nuns and missionaries, who were abusive emotionally, physically and sexually towards the children. Though to think there was never once one nun or missionary that had ever treated the children with love and care, would be to say there was never a rose within a thorn bush.

  Dear Diary,

Today is my first day working for the government as a teacher in a local Residential school. I have no idea what to expect, I’ve heard rumours that many mean old missionaries work there. And that they beat the children. How could anyone do that? I know for certain that I would never do that, I could never harm I child. I accepted this job to teach, to do what I loved. I was lucky enough to get my grade 6 reading and writing so I would love to pass that on. I would treat the First Nation children like I would treat any other.

Dear Diary,

 I don’t even have words to describe how horrific it is here. All the children started their days by being waken up without warning. Some of the young boys were up earlier to feed and milk the cows. They had to make their beds, brush their teeth, and clean the bathrooms all in a span of 10 minutes. Some children also had stay behind and scrub the bathroom floors after all the other children were done. Morning mass was next, the children had to kneel, all I could think about was their poor little knees.  Then they went to the dining room to eat a less the healthy breakfast. Sticky porridge, a small piece of bread with butter and one glass of milk. How could a growing child grow with a morning meal so weak as that?

 After breakfast, all the children had to do more cleaning and chores. I understood that chores had to be done but wasn’t learning more important? I made the mistake of asking the older nun showing me around, she barked that “These children need to learn responsibility.” That made no sense, but she was very scary so I just nodded. Finally, it was class time at last! But all the first hour was was more praying. Then I only had two hours to teach them as much as I could, about writing, reading, and math. It was impossible, these poor children were already either to exhausted or bored to focus. I tried by best but I knew all they wanted to do was to go home and see their families.

Dear Diary,

 After the very un successful class, the children were now sent to do work and MORE chores! The little girls learned to sew, laundry, cook and clean. I was hoping they were going to be able to sew a felt doll or something but no only cloths and towels. The boys learned the parts on the farm, and how to grow a garden. Then they were handed axes and were to chop wood. They could cut off an arm! Especially the younger boys who didn’t have their upper body strength yet.

Dear Diary,

  After study time and supper, during recreation time I saw a little boy who had just been beaten for speaking in his native language. I gave him a hug and tried to tell him everything was going to be alright. The boy smiled up at me and at that moment I knew these Residential schools had to be shut down. Children should not be treated this way.

Dear Diary,

Today is my last day.  
Sources: My brain and the Nishnawbe aski Nation, healing The Generations Residential School hand out.

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