So, what in God’s name was the point?


April 15/17 |
by Rev Gordon Taylor

Easter vigil is the Saturday before the day of resurrection.  Spiritually speaking, it is a day to go even slower than usual, to let the truths we have heard  … percolate … steep … soak in.

The T.R.C. home webpage declares:

Indian Residential Schools date back to the1870’s. The policy behind the government funded, church-run schools attempted to “kill the Indian in the child”. Over 130 residential schools were located across the country, with the last one closing in 1996. More than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in these schools.

If “kill the Indian in the child” meant “civilize Indigenous children” – was this agenda achieved?

Margaret Simpson, who attended the Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, school, described [learning to lie] as a survival technique.

I learned how to lie, to lie so that I will get away with whatever Sister wanted me to do and that whatever she wanted to hear, that’s what I told her even if it was a lie. So it got easier and I got pretty good at lying and I had a real time to get out of that lying as I got older in life to be able to tell the truth and to know the difference of what was happening because of that lie that it became such a habit for me. I had a real hard time even after I left the residential school.

Noel Knockwood said that at the Shubenacadie school, he learned to fake submission.

We learned how to play the game and acknowledged and bowed our heads in agreement and whatever they said we agreed with them, because they were too powerful to fight and they were too strong to, to, for us to change their, their habits and their ways of living.

John B. Custer learned to rebel at residential school. The only things he took away from his years at the school near The Pas, Manitoba, were a guilty conscience and a bad attitude.

So instead of learning anything in that residential school, we, we learned just the opposite from good. We learned how to steal, we learned how to fight, we learned how to cheat, we learned how to lie. And to tell the truth, I thought I was gonna go to hell, so I didn’t give a shit. I was sort of a rebel in the residential school. I didn’t listen, so I was always being punished.

Hazel Ewanchuk attended two residential schools in southern Manitoba, where she learned that love was a lie.

You know we were ordered around like, we were already big girls, you know. We had to take the orders no matter what. You couldn’t say, you know, I can’t do that, you did it, or else you got a strapping, and we had Bible study every night. I didn’t mind that. I thought, what are they preaching here about love? Where is that love? You know. There was no love for us. They made a liar out of Bibles and liars of themselves too.

Elaine Durocher felt that she received no meaningful education at the school at Kamsack, Saskatchewan. Rather, she learned the tools for a life on the fringes of society in the sex trade.

They were there to discipline you, teach you, beat you, rape you, molest you, but I never got an education. I knew how to run. I knew how to manipulate. Once I knew that I could get money for touching, and this may sound bad, but once I knew that I could touch a man’s penis for candy, that set the pace for when I was a teenager, and I could pull tricks as a prostitute. That, that’s what the residential school taught me. It taught me how to lie, how to manipulate, how to exchange sexual favours for cash, meals, whatever, whatever the case may be.

Let’s listen to what some of the students had to say about leaving the residential school as they finally closed.

Dorene Bernard was  at the Shubenacadie school when it closed in 1967.

Remember my last day walking out of the residential school at the end of June 1967, and we were the last ones to leave … And it was just like an evil place, it was empty, you hear your echoes walking through and talking, like this place, you could hear your echo everywhere you went.

Rose Marie Prosper

And I could remember getting into the car, looking back, and Sister came running down the stairs, and she said, “You forgot something. Dorene, you forgot something,” and she passed me that Bible missal. And I took it and I threw it, I threw it away and told her to keep it, “I don’t need it where I’m going.”

And my sister was even scared when we were getting ready to leave. “Don’t do that. Don’t say that,” she said. I said, “What can they do to me? They’re not going to do anything to us now. We’re outta here.”

As an educational enterprise the system was bankrupt.  Apparently, its agenda was not “to civilize”.

“Kill the Indian in the child” in residential school experiences more closely resembled an effort to extinguish Indigenous relationships, language, identity, pride, and culture, so there would no longer be Indigenous people to whom the Crown owed treaty obligations.

Thankfully, that agenda seems to have failed, also.

 UCiM Facebook page. 


He has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me.  Lamentations 3:5-7


The Survivors Speak.  2015. Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  pp. 119-120, 201-203

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