Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, 1930, Nova Scotia Museum

The Shubenacadie Indian Residential School was part of the Canadian Indian residential school system and was located in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. It was the only one in Atlantic Canada and children from across the region were placed in the institution.[1] The schools were funded through Indian Affairs and the Catholic Church. The institution was like an orphanage, which were the forerunners of contemporary child protection and welfare services.[2] The first children arrived on February 5, 1930 and the institution was closed after 37 years on June 22, 1967.[3] Approximately 10% of Mi'kmaq children lived at the institution.[4] (Approximately 30% of native children were placed in residential schools nationally.)[5] Over 1000 children are estimated to have been placed in the institution over 37 years.[6][7]

Contemporary opinions of the institutions range from National Chief Phil Fontaine comparing it to “genocide” to the aboriginal affairs minister John Duncan describing it as “an education policy gone wrong“.[8][9] As the institution was moved out of poverty and away from corporal punishment in the 1950s and 60s, predictability, Mi’kmaq people’s memories of the school improved. One Mi’kmaq woman who attended the institution from 1955- 1962 spoke positively about attending the school, preferring it over living in the poverty on her reserve.[10]

At the same time, those who were placed in the institution during the first twenty years have spoken of the traumatic experiences they had in the institution. Most agree that there were serious problems with the institution: poor living conditions, corporal punishment, over-crowding, lack of academic education, forced farm labour, hunger, racist curriculum, and children punished for speaking the Mi’kmaq language.

Historical context[edit]

According to historian John G. Reid, in the 18th century the Mi’kmaq militias and Maliseet militias were not defeated militarily nor did they make formal surrender of their territory.[11] (Historian Stephen Patterson argues that the native militias were defeated, however, this defeat was after Mi’kmaq and Maliseet militias effectively resisted the British for 75 years, over six wars, before participating in the Burying the hatchet ceremony in 1761.[12]) As native military power waned in the region, they were supplanted by the arrival of the Loyalist who more than quadrupled the number of people living in the region.[13] Loyalists built roads and created farms that destroyed native hunting habitats.[14] The natives “access to land was narrowed and native economies hollowed out accordingly.”[15] The resulting dislocation from the land led to poverty and marginalization, subsisting on reserves.

The intent of the institution in Shubenacadie was to elevate natives out of poverty, which had persisted throughout the 19th century, and to make natives self-sustaining. The effect for many was the opposite. The government failed to define the problem as the long history of (colonial) social policies that led to Mi’kmaq people’s grinding poverty and lack of educational opportunities in the first place, notably the underfunded, poorly built and badly staffed day schools that the government established on Mi'kmaq reserves.[16] Instead, the problem was defined as being Mi’kmaq and the solution was defined as Mi'kmaq people adopting the same practices and ideas of those of European descent. The Mi’kmaq were blamed for their fate, they were the “Indian Problem” that those of European-descent needed to unilaterally, paternalistically fix.

Construction[edit]

The farm of George Gay was purchased for the school and construction began in 1928.[17] The school was the first residential school east of Quebec. It was to be staffed by the Roman Catholic Order Sisters of Charity. The goal at first was to provide education for orphans or neglected children on Maritime reserves. However, just before it opened, Duncan Campbell Scott of Canada's Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, expanded its mandate to be an option to the small day schools which already existed on reserves. The school opened for staff and administrators in May 1929 and in its expanded role was intended to educate 150 students.[18] The first children arrived on February 5, 1930.[19]

Underfunding[edit]

For the first two decades of the institutions existence it was underfunded by the government, extending the poor conditions of the reserve into the institution. The result was a facility that was often cold and leaked. Teachers were paid less than half of their counterparts working in the provincial schools.[20] Poverty also led to chronic hunger and malnutrition in the school. In 1945, one researcher defined the nutrition at the school as “overwhelmingly poor”.[21] A researcher the following year noted that the lack of attention to the issue was “utterly disgusting”.[22][23]

In 1950, the salary of the teachers doubled, which almost elevated them to the same level as their provincial counterparts.[24] Despite the increases in wages, throughout the 50s and 60s, the average teacher was there 2–3 years. In 1965, there was a turnover of 30%.[25] In 1956, with the fourth principal, food improved.[26]

Overcrowding[edit]

The formula for funding was on a per child basis.[27] To raise money, the number of children placed in the institution was increased. The school was built for 125 students; however, in the first year 146 children were placed in the institution, 62 students were in the single grade 1 class[28][29] By 1938, 175 children were placed in the institution to try to make up for the financial hardship the institution faced. In 1957, there were 160 students, divided among four classrooms.[30] Inspector in 1957 indicated, children required “much more individual attention”[31]

In the 1960s the average was 123 students per year; in 1968 it was 120 children and the following and final year dropped to 60.[32]

Corporal Punishment[edit]

Numerous Mi’kmaq who attended the school reported the staff using severe corporal punishment during the first two decades of the institutions’ existence. The first principal allegedly knocked out a fifteen-year-old in front of a class by punching him in the face.[33] Many Mi’kmaq who attended the institution reported being sexually abused by staff.[34] One Mi’kmaq person alleged that his sister died within 24 hours of being assaulted by staff.[35] In June 1934, 19 boys were severely beaten by the principal for stealing, which was supported by the Halifax Chronicle.[36] There were also allegations of locking children in rooms for days at a time.[37]

Chief Dan Francis (1931) protested to Indian Affairs of the conditions at the institution after its first year of operation: “I thought that the school was built for Indian children to learn to read and write, Not for slaves and prisoners like a jail… one Indian boy of this reserve was so beaten by Father Mackey he was laid out for seven days.”[38] In 1936, Indian Agent R. H. Butts of Sydney Mines wrote to Indian affairs to complain about the cruelty at the school.[39] The violence is alleged to have continued until the second principal arrived at the school in 1944.[40]

Academic standards[edit]

Initially, the institution focused the children primarily on agricultural education and not academic education. In 1936, Indian Agent Ed Harvey of Lequille, Nova Scotia and Agent R. H. Butts of Sydney Mines wrote to Indian affairs to criticize the school for focusing too much on labour and not enough on the classroom.[41] Two years later, in 1939, 2 of the 150 residents made Grade 8, including 15 children who had been there for 10 years. By 1944, only 4 of 146 residents made it to grade 6.[42] In 1946, Indian Affairs regulated that same amount of time needed to be spent on labour as in public school.[43] With the arrival of the second principal, the institution increased its focus on academics and the focus on farm labour decreased.[44]

In 1961, industrial arts and home economics for children under grade 7 was dropped.[45] 1964, only 9 of 110 students reached grade 8.[46] In 1965, the Herald reported that the average achievement was grade 8, while only 2% went beyond grade 8.[47]

The curriculum defined natives as “savages”, “Squaw” and “buck”. Narratives focused on Europeans discovering a “New World” and civilizing drunken natives.[48]

The children were forbidden to speak Mi’kmaq. There are reports to children being beaten as a result of not speaking English. One chief protested in the Truro Daily News in 1931 that in the institution “everything Indian is to be forever obliterated and cast into a bottomless pit.” [49] With the arrival of the fourth principal in 1956, staff no longer punished students for speaking Mi'kmaq language.[50]

Rose Salmons, a former nun who taught at the school recalled in 2015 how she was ill prepared for teaching at Shubenacadie when she became one of the 12 nuns teaching at the residential school. She said, “We certainly didn't have any training for dealing with children who were taken from their homes, and who really needed love.” According to Salmons, teachers were forbidden from expressing kindness or support. “It was written down: we were not to show affection for the children.”[51]

Dividing Families[edit]

Against the orders of the Catholic Church, the Institution took children against their parents’ wishes.[52] Some children who attended the institution were orphans, other children were placed in the institution by their parents, while, as in contemporary child protection cases, other parents were forced to surrender their children.[53]

The children were forbidden to go home even during summer break until the 1945, despite parents' wishes and willingness to pay transportation costs or even to go home to the local reserve of Shubenacadie.[54] They were not allowed home for holidays until the mid 1950s.[55] In 1939, some parents arrived at the institution at Christmas to take home their children. The institution contacted the RCMP and the parents were escorted off the property without their children.[56] Despite the efforts of their parents, three children never saw their parents for 9 years.[57]

As with contemporary group homes for children in protective care against their will, numerous Mi'kmaq children tried to escape but were eventually tracked down and returned to the institution.

Again, with the arrival of the fourth principal in 1956, children were allowed to return home for holidays.[58] By 1960, students were no longer forced to attend the institution.[59]

Closure[edit]

The institution was closed after 37 years on June 22, 1967.[60] The site was purchased by a private owner but few alternate uses could be found for the structure.[61] The school building was destroyed by fire in 1986. The school's site is now occupied by a plastics factory although a few staff houses remain and the road to the school is still named "Indian School Road".[62]

Afterward[edit]

After the school was closed, provincial child protection and welfare services stepped in and many children were put into foster homes. Child protection and welfare services continue to apprehend aboriginal children. In 2014, in Nova Scotia 21. 4% of native children are in care, against their parents’ wishes, compared with 4% in the overall population.[63]

In 1995, Nora Bernard started the Association for the survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.[64] 900 Mi’kmaq joined the group. 1997, they filed a class action lawsuit against the government.[65] Eventually 1.9 million dollar lawsuit was settled at the national level, the largest historical redress agreement in the world.[66]

12 years later, on June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an apology.[67] In the Fall of 2011 there was an Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission that travelled to various communities in Atlantic Canada.[68]

In 2012 a monument to the suffering and injustice created by the school was installed at the education and drug rehabilitation centre on the We’koqma’q First Nation in Whycocomagh, Nova Scotia. Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy who went to the school when he was six in 1947 and helped at the unveilling said the monument was needed to remind people not to let such a tragedy happen again.[69]

In terms of retaining the Mi’kmaq language, in 2014, 55% of Mi’kmaq homes use at least some Mi’kmaq language, 33% of children can speak the language.[70] For the Maliseet, the situation is much worse with only 60 people left for whom their own language is their mother tongue.[71]

The Nova Scotia government and the Mi’kmaq community have made the Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey, which is the most successful First Nation Education Program in Canada.[72][73] In 1982, the first Mi’kmaq operated school opened in Nova Scotia.[74] By 1997, all education for Mi’kmaq on reserves were given the responsibility for their own education.[75] There are now 11 band run schools in Nova Scotia.[76] Now Nova Scotia has the highest rate of retention of aboriginal students in schools in the country.[77] More than half the teachers are Mi’kmaq.[78] From 2011 to 2012 there was a 25% increase of Mi’kmaq students going to university. Atlantic Canada has the highest rate of aboriginal students attending university in the country.[79][80]

Notable Mi’kmaq who lived at institution[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Isabelle Knockwood, Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi'kmaq Children at the Shubenacadie Residential School at Shubenacadie. Nova Scotia. Lockport, N.S.: Roseway Publishing, 1992
  • CurricuIum and Pedagogy at the Shubenacadie Residential School,. Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. 1951-1967 by. Briar Dawn Ransberry.
  • Canadian native education policy : a case study of the residential school at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia by O'Hearn, Marilyn Elaine. Masters Thesis. Saint Mary's University

Links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benjamin, p. 36
  2. ^ Benjamin, p.29
  3. ^ Benjamin, p. 157
  4. ^ The Mi'kmaq population went from 5000 to 6000 during this time period. 30% (1500) of the Mi'kmaq population was under age 17. Approximately 150 lived at the institution on an annual basis.
  5. ^ Residential School History: A Legacy of Shame. Wabano Centre for Aborgiinal Health, Ottawa, Ontario. 2000., p. 1 Archived 2015-12-03 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Cape Breton University. The number 1000 presumes that after the 150 students of the first year, there was an average turn-over of 20 students annually over 37 years.
  7. ^ Benjamin reports there were 2000 Mi'kmaq children who lived at the institution, however, he does not give his source (p. 29, 177).
  8. ^ Benjamin, p. 191
  9. ^ Fontaine went public that he had been sexually abused at one of the institutions.
  10. ^ Benjamin, p. 125
  11. ^ Reid, p. 87
  12. ^ Patterson, Stephen E. (1994). "1744–1763: Colonial Wars and Aboriginal Peoples". In Phillip Buckner; John G. Reid. The Atlantic Region to Confederation: A History. University of Toronto Press. pp. 125–155. ISBN 978-1-4875-1676-5. JSTOR 10.3138/j.ctt15jjfrm.
  13. ^ Reid, p. 85
  14. ^ Reid, p. 86
  15. ^ Reid, p. 88
  16. ^ Martha Walls, "Part of the Whole System: Maritime Day and Residential Schooling and Federal Culpability" The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, Vol. XXX, No. 2 (2010), p.366-367
  17. ^ "History of Shubenacadie", Shubenacadie Tin Shop Museum (1986)
  18. ^ Martha Walls Walls, p.369
  19. ^ Benjamin, p. 157
  20. ^ Benjamin, p. 141
  21. ^ Benjamin, p. 117
  22. ^ Benjamin, p. 117
  23. ^ Mi'kmaqs recall hunger at residential school: Woman unknowingly part of government experiment. CBC news.Jul 18, 2013
  24. ^ Benjamin, p. 141
  25. ^ Benjamin, p. 151
  26. ^ Benjamin, p. 148
  27. ^ Benjamin, p. 98, 141
  28. ^ Benjamin, p. 32, p. 98
  29. ^ Briar Ransbury reports that the limit in the school was 160 students (See Master's Thesis, p. 3)
  30. ^ Benjamin, p. 139
  31. ^ Benjamin, p. 139
  32. ^ Benjamin, p. 154
  33. ^ Benjamin, p. 47
  34. ^ Benjamin, p. 47
  35. ^ Benjamin, p. 92
  36. ^ Benjamin, p. 61
  37. ^ Benjamin, p. 47
  38. ^ Benjamin, p. 127
  39. ^ Benjamin, p. 80
  40. ^ Benjamin, p. 64
  41. ^ Benjamin, p. 80
  42. ^ Benjamin, p. 80
  43. ^ Benjamin, p. 137
  44. ^ Benjamin, p. 138
  45. ^ Benjamin, p. 152
  46. ^ Benjamin, p. 151
  47. ^ Benjamin, p. 153
  48. ^ Benjamin, p. 82
  49. ^ Benjamin, p. 108, p. 126
  50. ^ Benjamin, p. 148
  51. ^ "Former student, teacher recall dark times at Shubenacadie residential school", CTV News, June 2, 2015
  52. ^ Benjamin, p. 78
  53. ^ Benjamin, p. 102, 99
  54. ^ Benjamin, p. 121
  55. ^ Benjamin, p. 122
  56. ^ Benjamin, p. 122
  57. ^ Benjamin, p. 122
  58. ^ Benjamin, p. 148
  59. ^ Benjamin, p. 152
  60. ^ Benjamin, p. 157
  61. ^ "History of Shubenacadie", Shubenacadie Tin Shop Museum (1986)
  62. ^ Survivors of residential school system gather in N.S. to hear apology, Canadian Press, June 11, 2008
  63. ^ Benjamin, p. 170
  64. ^ Benjamin, p. 185
  65. ^ Benjamin, p. 186
  66. ^ Benjamin, p. 187
  67. ^ Benjamin, p. 190
  68. ^ Benjamin, p. 195
  69. ^ Monica Graham, "Monument acknowledges tragedy of residential school", Halifax Chronicle Herald, Dec. 9, 2012
  70. ^ Benjamin, p. 216
  71. ^ Benjamin, p. 217
  72. ^ Benjamin, p. 226
  73. ^ [Mi’kmaq Kina’ matnewey http://kinu.ca/]
  74. ^ Benjamin, p. 208
  75. ^ Benjamin, p. 210
  76. ^ Benjamin, p. 211
  77. ^ Benjamin, p. 211
  78. ^ Benjamin, p. 211
  79. ^ Benjamin, p. 214
  80. ^ http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1244586-number-of-mi-kmaq-graduates-continues-to-rise
  81. ^ Benjamin, p. 155

Works cited[edit]

Coordinates: 45°05′49″N 63°24′25″W / 45.096934°N 63.406806°W / 45.096934; -63.406806