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Could It Be, Mr. Russell, That The Residential Schools WERE That Bad?

Just As The Foster Care Epidemic Is That Bad Now.

by Daniel Johnson


To begin with, I am a residential school survivor.

Me and 2 of my brothers were in The Timber Bay Indian And Metis Children's Home in Northern Saskatchewan, 1984-1985, so only a school year, but long enough to know what it feels like to be a child living in an institutional hell staffed by people whose objective is to make you be like them and to reflect their worldview and value system rather than that of your real family and community.  

I have white skin, strawberry blond hair and I'm under 40, so I can't relate directly to the experiences of  residential school students in the time period Paul Russel talks about in his article 'Could It Be That Residential Schools Weren't So Bad'. 

There was no TB, no secret burials, all of the students spoke English as a first language already, most came from communities that were already Christianized or didn't discuss religion.

The damage of the residential schools had already been done, First Nations and Metis people were, in the 80s, on or off reserve, living in what any objective observer would call poverty,  the traditions were largely dormant at the time, I remember going to pow-wows in northern Saskatchewan where no sweetgrass or pipes were seen, the dancers and drummers put on a show but there was no talk of what the costumes and songs meant, and I also remember beer and peel-off lottery tickets being sold. 

Children were often neglected by parents who had been robbed of any self-confidence or sense of authority by social workers and school staff to the point where they didn't want to discipline their children or teach them anything because they'd been taught that everything they do is wrong, so instead they drank to stay busy and let the kids run wild in the summer and Timber Bay would take them for the school year.

Drug and alcohol related mental illness and violence were part of day to day life in the LaRonge area, as well as Prince Albert, during that period of time. 

But my father wasn't a drunk. He was convinced by 'experts' that it would be best for us to go into Timber Bay because, as a single father, he should be a provider rather than a nurterer because the parenting experts at the time believed, as many still do today, that fathers are inherently unsuited to raise children. So he went to work cutting rails, and for awhile at the uranium mines and left us in Timber Bay. 

He was told he could stop in and visit anytime. He was told he could take us out on weekends any time. He was told we would be exempted from their religious indoctrination programs, since he was an atheist. He was told he was still the parent and Timber Bay would recognize his ultimate authority in major decisions. So he signed the paper which said Timber Bay had parental rights, which is just a standard thing for discipline, etc. 

Once we were in, they said no visits whotsoever except statuatory holidays, any attempt to take us out without their permission before the end of the school year would be treated as kidnapping, and they decided that, since he had actively taught as that there was no God and that Jesus was just a really nice person who helped people, and that we should just be good people, we should have a more intensive religious instruction than most of the other kids there. 

My brothers were older, so this was mostly put on me because they knew I would be more impressionable. 

I could talk about the strap. It was a corrogated leather strap that left a bright red diamond pattern on your ass. It had 'hello' written on one side of it. 

But this would be used by social workers and other 'experts' today to promote the anti-spanking campaign expanding the definition of abuse to give them another excuse to 'expand the net' and fill already overcrowded foster homes even faster, and the children in those institutions won't be spanked, they'll be drugged into intellectual oblivion, destined for a life of 'psychiatric help' they never would have needed without the intervention of the social workers. Then, to make it even more hurtful, even if they don't have those problems, the social workers will target them once they have kids of their own, using the 'history of foster care' as an excuse in itself. 

The specifics are not important, and that's what people like Paul Russel need to understand. 

It is not natural for hundreds of kids to live in a dormitory where parenting is a paid professional function carried out by people whose worldview is completely alien to the community those children come from and will ultimately return to. 

It wasn't just wrong when it was done to First Nations and Metis in Canada, it was wrong when it was done to children in England during the early days of the industrial when peasants were forced off their ancestral land to work in the factories in the city, and after they tried to rebel, English courts sentenced as many poor adults to hang as possible, for minor thefts and even burning women alive for adultery, so that their children could have a 'better uprbringing' and learn the 'value of hard honest work' in London's horrific orphanages and work-houses, the beta-test version of an institutional form that eventually twinned and evolved into the public school system as well as the residential school system. 

The institutionalization of young children in crowded settings is wrong. There are very few success stories coming out of institutionalized childhoods, and every 'expert' knows this, so does every 'expert' who works to expand the power and influence of social workers to fill up foster homes and drug as many of the kids in them as they can. 

It's not just an indigenous issue. It's a human issue. The institutionalization of childhood is wrong. 

It's wrong when white people do it to First Nations, it's just as wrong when white people do it to white people, it's wrong when governments of any racial or cultural background do it to children of any racial or cultural background. It's wrong when it's foster care, it's wrong when it's workhouses and sweat shops, it's wrong when the children are white or non-white. 

The institutionalization of childhood is wrong. 

 

 


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Daniel Johnson (Daniel Johnson)
Regina Sask
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