One of the most acrimonious issues to result from the Treaty process is the dark legacy of the residential school system. The purpose of the residential schools in Canada was to educate and civilize or westernize the First Nation peoples in or
der that they adopt a more western – that is European – lifestyle. Separating the children from their parents and forcing religion on them, it was believed, was the only means by which to achieve this “civilizing” of the First Nations peoples.
In a historic and solemn day, Aboriginal students who endured abuse and torment in Canada’s residential schools will finally get a formal apology from the Canadian government today from the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper. The Canadian government acknowledged the physical and sexual abuse that occurred in the now-defunct network of federally financed, church-run residential schools and this will mark the first time a Prime Minister has apologized.
I have spent a great part of my life researching these issues in the U.S. after discovering my father and grandfather attended one of these schools. I know what the experience did to them and to our family. I know the issues I battled and am often frustrated with the indifference I encounter when I point to the statistics which indicate the presence of an unseen diabolical killer in our lives as Native people in the U.S. It is my prayer that we will see a responsible concerted effort by the government of the U.S. and the churches that were perpetrators of sexual, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse in our lives. God help us!