Educating Natives: The Legacy of Native Canadian Education
This paper is an examination of the effects of assimilation strategies on Native Canadian culture. In the late 1800's Canada's governing authorities, such as clergy members from many denominations and Indian Affairs Ministers, implemented a method of education called the Residential School System that intended to help Natives better integrate themselves into the new Canadian culture. The results of this forced assimilation were devastating to Native culture, language and individuals themselves who suffered many abuses at the hands of unsympathetic patrons. One of the great damages to be examined for this presentation is the loss of language that ensued, along with the loss of Native expression. Some of the questions to consider will be: What are the effects of assimilation strategies? How does a silenced culture begin to regain their voice? When a voice is regained what does it sound and look like? What does an oral culture lose or gain in the process of becoming a literate one?
This past September 2007, in Canada, the Aboriginal community reached a real milestone, as the Federal Government granted victims of the residential school system a settlement. This settlement is a result of a series of inquests on Native Canadian relations, which began back in 1995 with a Royal Commission appointed to review Native Canadian relations. The settlement has reminded Canada of the silence that has existed within the Canadian Aboriginal community for a long period of time.
With this in mind, and with Aboriginal culture in mind, I will discuss the link between education and cultural expression with a close look at literature as a means of cultural expression. I will also examine the ways in which Native writers work to bridge the gap between the Native culture's oral tradition and the English's literate tradition.
Keywords: Education, Native Canadian Education, Native Canadian Literature, Oral Culture
PhD Student, Division of Humanities, York University