We must not forget what happened to the world’s indigenous children

We must not forget what happened to the world’s indigenous children

Steve Minton writes:

Between 1890 and 1978, at Kamloops Indian Residential School in the Canadian province of British Columbia, thousands of Indigenous children were taught to ‘forget’. Separated from their families, these children were compelled to forget their languages, their identities and their cultures. Through separation and forgetting, settler governments and teachers believed they were not only helping Indigenous children, but the nation itself. Canada would make progress, settlers hoped, if Indigenous children could just be made more like white people.

In 1890, this curriculum of forgetting was forcibly taught in the few wooden classrooms and living quarters that comprised Kamloops Indian Residential School. But in the early 20th century, the institution expanded, and a complex of redbrick buildings was constructed to accommodate an increase in students. In every year of the 1950s, the total enrolment at the ‘school’ exceeded 500 Indigenous children, making this the largest institution of its kind in Canada.

Today, the redbrick buildings are still standing on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s land. You can still look through the glass windows and see the old classrooms and halls. You can walk the grounds, toward the site of the former orchard or the banks of the nearby river. And you can stand over the graves of 215 children who died right here, at Kamloops Indian Residential School. Some never saw their fourth birthday.

You might think the Kamloops ‘school’ and its unmarked graves are an isolated and regrettable part of Canadian history, which we have now moved beyond. But that is a lie. Those 215 graves are part of a much larger political project that continues to this day. [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.