1620 - The first residential schools open

"The system's aim was to kill the Indian in the child" - John S. Malloy

Residential School, also known as Indian Residential School, were established in 1620, for the explicit purpose of removing Indigenous children from their culture, language, and traditions. These schools were run by churches: 60% administered by Roman Catholics, 30% by the Anglican Church of Canada, and 10% the United Church of Canada. Students who attended were not allowed to speak their Native languages, and the schools were built a great distance from Indigenous communities, in order to minimize the contact a child might have with their family, at the wishes of Hayter Reed, the Indian Commissioner in 1888. - The History of Immigration and Racism in Canada: Essential Readings

The first Residential Schools were not deemed successful by the French and British, due to the student's refusal to assimilate. Few schools remained open throughout the entirety of the 1700's. However, there was renewed interest in implementing control of the Indian population via Residential Schools around the time of Confederation, in the 1800's. This was a result of a shift in perception of Indigenous people as allies in the fights against the American's to the South, to seeing the Indigenous population as a barrier to permanent settlement on the lands that would become Canada. - International Indigenous Policy Journal

Today, we are still grappling with the legacy of abuse, cultural genocide, and intergenerational trauma that has resulted from these institutions.

Resources for further information

We Were so far away

The Inuit experience of Residential Schools

"A group of courageous Inuit residential school Survivors shared their experiences with the Legacy of Hope Foundation with the hope of contributing to the healing process for Survivors, their families and communities, as well as the rest of the nation. Their stories, recorded in this exhibition catalogue, are presented in their own words and illustrated with their personal objects and photographs, as well as with historical photographs from archives across Canada. The Survivors, two from each Inuit region – Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region – provide us with moving examples of what life was like for many Inuit before, during, and after their time in the Residential School System." We were so far away

Resources include

  • Survivor stories from each region of the Inuit North

  • Slideshow of images from Residential Schools

  • Timeline of Residential School events, specific to the Inuit context

  • Healing work

  • Resources for educators and researchers

  • Books

  • Video resources

  • Websites

  • Inuit and the Residential School System booklet

Where are the children?


Where are the children? is a website available in English and French, with many resources to learn about Residential Schools in Canada.

"The goals of Where are the Children? Healing the Legacy of the Residential Schools are to: acknowledge the experiences of, and the impacts and consequences of Canada’s Residential School System on Aboriginal peoples; to create a public and historical record of this period in Canadian history that could be easily accessed by Canadians; and to promote public awareness, understanding and education of the history and legacy of residential schools." -wherearethechildren.ca

Resources include

  • Timeline of residential school in Canada

  • The complete exhibit of the history of residential schools

  • Stories from survivors of residential schools

  • Resources for educators, researchers and students

  • Books appropriate for various age groups

  • Edu-kit and teacher bundle

  • Video resources

  • An extensive curated list of resources for all ages, and across many mediums about this subject, including fiction, history, poetry, drama, and memoir.

Resources for High School Students

Websites for further information


500 Years of Resistance Comic Book

Gord Hill

The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book is a powerful and historically accurate graphic portrayal of Indigenous resistance to the European colonization of the Americas, beginning with the Spanish invasion under Christopher Columbus and ending with the Six Nations land reclamation in Ontario in 2006. Gord Hill spent two years unearthing images and researching historical information to create The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book, which presents the story of Aboriginal resistance in a far-reaching format. - Arsenal Pulp

Goodbye Buffalo Bay

Larry Loyie,

Illustrations by Constance Brissenden

"Goodbye Buffalo Bay is based on the author's life at a residential school. A short epilogue in the back of the book, as well as a three page section entitled, "A Brief History of Residential Schools," explain why these poorly funded schools opened, how they operated, and why they were finally shut down. Other back matter in this book includes a small Cree glossary and a website link where readers can see photographs of students and activities at a residential school." Theytus

Resources for Junior High School Students

Fatty legs: A True Story

Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak Fenton

Illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rJ9awMQ1w8

"Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools.At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school.In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers." Ages 9-13, Annick Press

Resources for Elementary School Students

When I was Eight. Christy Jordan-Fenton, and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton,

Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard.

Ages 6-8

the young readers version of Fatty Legs by the same authors. The story of a young girl in Residential school, and her resilience."Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight is a young readers version of the bestselling memoir, Fatty Legs. Now young readers can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read. Ages 6–8." - Indigenous Reads

#Residentialschool #Church #Canada #Elementary

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