From the 1870s until the 1990s, 150,000 Indian children were compelled to attend Canadian 'residence schools.' New research uncovered 3,000 confirmed deaths with a proximate cause; that's a 2% (and probably higher) mortality rate. The deaths were mainly due to rampant disease caused by poor conditions:
"The schools were a particular breeding ground for [tuberculosis]. Dormitories were incubation wards" -- Alex Maass, researcher, the Missing Children Project.In 1937, four boys between ages 8 and 9 fled their school and froze to death in slush ice on Fraser Lake, trying to make their way back to their families on Nautley Reserve. A contemporaneous investigation cautioned the school administration to limit "excessive corporal discipline." Child physical abuse, child rape. Suicide. Malnourishment. It's all there:
The records reveal the number of deaths only fell off dramatically after the 1950s, although some fatalities occurred into the 1970s.Architects set aside burial space in the construction of these schools.
"The question I ask myself is: Would I send my child to a private school where there were even a couple of deaths the previous year without looking at it a little bit more closely?"
Deliberate concealment of deaths:
The annual death reports were consistently done until 1917, when they abruptly stopped.The political geography may be different but Canada, like the U.S., has a shared history of Indian dispossession, mass captivity, torture, assimilation, environmental racism. Both countries share the Indian schools and the outcomes were much the same. The successful merger of public education and Christian religious institutions--Episcopal/Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Quaker, et al, in the bondage and torture of children.
"It was obviously a policy not to report them," Maass said.
In the 1990s, thousands of people who were wronged by this racist and barbaric system reached a critical mass in Canada, suing the national government. Not only did the victims achieve a $1.9 billion settlement in 2007, but Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was prompted to instigate a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. (Harper is no friend to First Nations peoples; see the Idle No More Movement for more.)
But you cannot erase history and money does not undo harm. The real history of this continent needs to be told. Children need to learn it. It needs to see the light of day at all levels of society. It lives because we who've lived it are still here. Our stories cannot be reduced to legends and ghost tales.