Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools

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In late May, the remains of 215 children were found at the site of a former residential school for indigenous children, who died as a result of what the authorities called "cultural genocide." Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the discovery as "heartbreaking."

On 28 May, the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous students from the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia shocked Canada and the world. The bodies were found on land behind the school, which was the country's largest before it closed in 1978. It was run by a Catholic congregation called the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 to 1969. 

According to Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released in 2015, roughly 150,000 indigenous children were forcibly assimilated through the residential school system from 1883 to 1998. 

The report revealed that nearly 3,200 died in these schools, with the majority of deaths happening before 1940. Scores of tuberculosis cases were also recorded in these institutions in the late 19th and early 20th century, with death rates remaining high until the 1950s.

The commission described the situation as "cultural genocide."

© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreGirls attend a first communion ceremony at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, Canada in 1955.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
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Girls attend a first communion ceremony at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, Canada in 1955.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreChildren play on swings at the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada circa 1940s.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
2/12
Children play on swings at the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada circa 1940s.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreBoys receive haircuts at the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
3/12
Boys receive haircuts at the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreGirls play hopscotch outside the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada in 1947.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
4/12
Girls play hopscotch outside the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada in 1947.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreA teacher reads to students at a residential school in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, Canada circa 1950.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
5/12
A teacher reads to students at a residential school in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, Canada circa 1950.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreBoys play table hockey at the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
6/12
Boys play table hockey at the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreSenior girl students pose outside the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
7/12
Senior girl students pose outside the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1960s.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreBoys pray on bunk beds in a dormitory at the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada in 1950.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
8/12
Boys pray on bunk beds in a dormitory at the Bishop Horden Memorial School, a residential school in the indigenous Cree community of Moose Factory, Ontario, Canada in 1950.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreGirls pose during a pageant at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, Canada in 1954.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
9/12
Girls pose during a pageant at the Spanish Indian Residential School in Spanish, Ontario, Canada in 1954.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreGirls work in the kitchen at the Bishop Horden Memorial School circa 1940.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
10/12
Girls work in the kitchen at the Bishop Horden Memorial School circa 1940.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreShinwauk Guides form a circle during the visit of the commissioner to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1951.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
11/12
Shinwauk Guides form a circle during the visit of the commissioner to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada circa 1951.
© REUTERS / Shingwauk Residential Schools CentreStudents attending the Shingwauk Indian Residential School use handmade bows in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada in 1960.
'Cultural Genocide': Looking Back at Canada's Indigenous Residential Schools - Sputnik International
12/12
Students attending the Shingwauk Indian Residential School use handmade bows in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada in 1960.
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