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This content is also available in French. View the French version of the Stolen Lives book. Traditional Indigenous education, including adult responses to misbehaviour, rarely involved physical punishment. In sharp contrast, many of the methods used by the staff and faculty at the residential schools to discipline students involved severe corporal punishment. Forms of physical punishment were acceptable in both Europe and British North America and were common at the elite boarding schools in Britain at the time.
But the residential schools were no elite boarding schools, and for many students the physical punishment experienced in the residential schools was physical abuse. Rather than preparing students for life after schooling was complete, a mixture of willful neglect and abuse negatively impacted many residential school students for the rest of their lives.
Thomas Moore, a young Indigenous boy who attended Regina Industrial School, is portrayed with short hair and Western-style clothing. The line between punishment and abuse was frequently crossed.
Students who did not adhere to school schedules and regulations received strappings whippings and were often humiliated in front of peers. Students who tried to escape from the schools had their hair Severe punishment stories very short.
Indeed, such offences would earn students long hours—even days—in a dark and secluded closet, often without real food. Long hair has a deep and spiritual meaning in Indigenous cultures. The hair length and style also distinguish between different Indigenous nations. The staff at the Mohawk Institute even built a prison cell for those who tried to escape. In the s, as the truth behind the treatment of Indigenous students came to light, it became clear that discipline and punishment could easily lead to physical abuse.
And since the abusive behaviour of some staff of the residential schools was covered up, some of them routinely abused their students both sexually and physically. However, few ever made it very far, since the schools were often established in isolated areas, and punishments for those who were caught were harsh.
She explains:. When I attended there, students were confirmed when they reached age Everyone was confirmed. I was nine years old when I started there. Every year a big bus would come to pick us up at the reserve and take us to the school. It was a long way from home.
I was a very little girl. I got very lonesome. Every once in a while students would run away, trying to get home. They would travel at night, helping themselves to vegetables and fruit from gardens along the way. We hardly ever made it home, we were usually caught. And then we were punished. Punishment for running away varied. One boy was hauled up in front of all the assembled students by the principal. He had a reputation for being mean. He forced the boy to pull his pants down Severe punishment stories gave the boy 10—15 straps with a great big leather strap.
Girls often had their head shaved bald if they tried to run away so that everyone would know. It was awful. I felt very ashamed. We also had to scrub the stairs with a toothbrush. Even common childhood accidents like bedwetting were punished harshly. They used to give us shock treatments for bedwetting. A lot of us never wet our beds but we still had to do it anyway.
And we would do that about three times. At the Alberni School on Vancouver Island, which was in operation from to under the United Church, punishments were particularly harsh, and treatment of the children was often brutal. A staff member in andMarian MacFarlane, was fired for attempting to rescue a young child from a severe beating. The local dentists were given free Novocaine by the government for the Native kids, but the traditional practice after the war years was for them to hoard the Novocaine for their practice in Port Alberni and just work on the Indians without painkillers.
Everyone in the school knew about this and condoned it, from the principal on down. No one minded when Indians were hurt, naturally; they were being beaten every day. To give you an example of the prevailing mentality towards Indians, I once caught a matron beating a little girl with a piano leg.
So off the matron goes to complain to John Andrews, the principal. Severe punishment stories would have been in You know what Andrews did? He fired me for hitting the matron! And you know what he said? Anything she did to that little squaw would have been better than us losing our organist. They were considered less than human, almost like a disease we had to get rid of. Learn about the methodical schedules and system of discipline and surveillance imposed on students of Indian Residential Schools.
Learn about ways that parents and students spoke and acted out against the Indian Residential Schools system. Learn about the Blue Quills First Nation College, an example of a successful, independent Indigenous educational institution in Canada. Add or Edit Playlist. Reading. Next Reading. What do these stories about punishment reveal about the attitudes of school officials toward their students? Why do you think that physical punishment was so common?
What do you think school officials were trying to achieve with the physical punishments? At what point does punishment become abuse? How does Marian MacFarlane explain why the dentists did not give painkillers to the Indigenous students? What is represented by such acts? As you read the different s from the students in this reading, what insights do you get about what it might have been like for a student at one of the Indian Residential Schools?
What adjectives do the students use to describe their experiences? What message was sent by firing MacFarlane instead of the matron? What do you wish the principal had done? Related Content. Download Free Sample. Subscribe to Our Blog.
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