Indeed, for example, as Kevin Annett states in his book Hidden from history: the Canadian Holocaust (2005), many of these aboriginal children had to deal with extreme hardships, including being taken from their families, the stark accommodations at these schools, and the abuse inflicted by the Christian nuns, priests and other church staff who ran these Residential schools. Annett (2005) saw them as “unsafe, violent, and unhealthy physical environment, substandard, contaminated and rancid food, … permanent isolation from family and friends (and finally) physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse”1 (p. 95). In fact, Residential schools did not provide a good ‘education’ to aboriginal children and, if aboriginal children were taught anything, they were taught such rudimentary skills that ensured they would remain “on the lower fringes of the dominant society”2 (Ann Pohl, 2005).
However, on the other hand, there are instances where Residential schools appear to have been beneficial for some of these aboriginal children, where they were actually ‘taught’ valuable skills and information within their walls. This article will highlight instances where Residential schools were a horrible holocaust for its aboriginal inhabitants as well as instances where Residential schools appear to have been a benevolent experience at the behest of the moral majority of Canada and its government. The main impetus of this article is to help determine if the aboriginal peoples caught up in the Residential schools system were able to retain their indigenous traditions and culture, even during the height of their residential schooling, which, in many case, was motivated by an ‘assimilation’ policy. This policy was outlined by XXX the church staff that ran the schools and the Indian Affairs officials desired in Ottawa.
In fact, however, some Residential school officials in at least some of the schools actually took an interest in aboriginal culture and were not overly keen in the ‘assimilation’ doctrine handed down by the Government of Canada and the church officials responsible for these Residential schools. Apparently, one such school was St. George in Lytton, British Columbia where, according to the supervisor , theirs was a mutual learning experience with their young male aboriginal charges. Indeed, this supervisor implied that it was he who was learning from the aboriginal children rather than the other way around. As stated, “I was introduced to the choicest delicacies according to Indian palates, taught to hunt and fish productively …and a thorough grounding on how to live and let live according to the Indians’ point of view”3 (Purvis, R. 1994, pp.7-. Sadly, however, aboriginal children in other Residential schools were reportedly beaten, harassed and humiliated if they spoke their language or partook in any aboriginal ceremonies.