There were many things wrong with residential schools. Yet, as bad as all of those things were, which I have been describing about Residential schools, perhaps what was even worst was the denigration of the parents, family, and culture of the indigenous people that was inflicted on the children as a result of a stunning and soul-obliterating assumption of white supremacy. As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’) said, “in establishing residential schools, the Canadian government essentially declared Aboriginal people to be unfit parents.” This attitude destroyed the connection between many indigenous children and their parents. It ruined the chances of indigenous children learning from their parent who to care for and nurture their own children when they became adults, thus ensuring that the pain of residential schools would be amplified and then allowed to cascade through the generations. It led directly and inevitably to the disasters Canada faces today. And it was all unnecessary. If only the dominant white society had learned that there was no reason for them to feel superior and these nations could have learned so much from each other. The indigenous people wanted to learn from the Europeans (and later Canadians) and could have offered so much to them in return.
I am not saying indigenous people were perfect and the Europeans/Canadians were fiends. But when there is a clash of civilizations and one group is vastly more powerful than the other, and if disaster ensues, fault is much more likely to be found with the powerful group than the weaker. Frankly, white male supremacy has been a deadly infectious disease in residential schools and Canadian society for a long time.
According to the TRC,
“Aboriginal parents were labelled as being indifferent to the future of their children—a judgment contradicted by the fact that parents often kept their children out of schools because they saw those schools, quite accurately, as dangerous and harsh institutions that sought to raise their children I alien ways. Once in the schools, brothers and sisters were kept apart, and the government and churches even arranged marriages for students after they finished their education.
The residential school system was based on an assumption that European civilization and Christian religions were superior to Aboriginal culture, which was seen as being savage and brutal. Government officials also were insistent that children be discouraged—and often prohibited—from speaking their own languages.
White male supremacy is not something that belongs to ancient forgotten times. It is alive and well. As the TRC said, “This hostility to Aboriginal culture and spiritual practice continued well into the twentieth century.”