Welcome back to my blog! Today, my blog is about a very important issue, which is not talked about enough. As you all probably know it was Orange Shirt day last Friday. Orange shirt day is a way for all Canadians to recognize the painful tragedies that took place in the 19th century.
For those of you who are not aware of the devastating history of Canada, let me briefly explain what happened. When Europeans first moved to Canada, they took over the land of the Aboriginal people. The Europeans made these Aboriginal people sign treaties of what they thought would grant them with their basic human rights including education. The Canadian government saw Aboriginal people as less than themselves and treated them very poorly. They were seen as wild, dirty and uneducated people. The Canadian government thought their best chance for success was to learn English and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs. Their plan was that they would pass their adopted lifestyle on to their children, and native traditions would be completely abolished in a few generations.
To accomplish their goals, the Canadian government started building residential schools. The first residential school was built in the 1840s. Indigenous kids were taken from their homes to these far away residential schools. In 1931, at the peak of the residential school system, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada. In all, about 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend these schools. Students at these schools were discouraged from speaking their first language or practicing native traditions. If they were caught, they would experience severe punishments. Throughout these years, students lived in substandard conditions and were physically and emotionally abused. The children were locked in dark basements for the whole night as a punishment. They worked more then they studied. Many died trying to escape, some died due to diseases and the rest lived in the worst possible conditions.
When students returned to the reserves, they often found they didn’t belong anymore. Some could not move on from their tragic past and became addicts. Many when became parents did not know how to raise a child since they did not grow up watching their parents. This not only effected the people who went through residential schools but it’s also impacting many of their next generations.
I can’t imagine being taken away from my family and living in such painful conditions. Being forced to believe in a different religion, being beaten up for speaking my language, being forced to eat old and tasteless food every day. I cannot imagine what these kids and their parents have been through.
Suicide is approximately three times more common among Aboriginal people than non-Aboriginal people. In Saskatchewan, the adult Aboriginal in prison rate is over 1,600 per 100,000, compared to 48 per 100,000 for adult non-Aboriginals. It’s important for all of us to understand the history so we know why things like these are happening and what we can do to help. Instead of judging them we should be finding ways to improve our relation with the Aboriginal people.