Indian residential schools--A Chronology.

AuthorEdmond, John

This chronology was compiled to convey, by historic milestones, how the Indian Residential School system came to be, how it embodied attitudes of its time, how critics were dismissed, and how finally the deep harm it did to many members of generations of Indian children was exposed in the course of a reconciliation process that continues. While Canada is doing its best to compensate, in many senses, for the failings of the system, much of the damage to individuals, and to First Nations culture, can never be put right.

1755--Indian Department created as branch of British military to establish and maintain relations with Indians.

1820--This decade sees Anglican and Methodist missionary schools established in Upper Canada and Red River settlement.

1842--Governor General Sir Charles Bagot appoints Commission to report on "the Affairs of the Indians in Canada."

1844--Bagot Commission finds reserve communities in a "half-civilized state"; recommends assimilationist policy, including establishment of boarding schools distant from child's community, to provide training in manual labour and agriculture; portends major shift away from Royal Proclamation of 1763 policy that Indians were autonomous entities under Crown protection.

1847--Dr. Adolphus Egerton Ryerson, Methodist minister and educational reformer, commissioned by Assistant Superintendent General of Indian Affairs to study Native education, supports Bagot approach (as does Governor General Lord Elgin); proposes model on which Indian Residential School system was built.

1856--"Any hope of raising the Indians ... to the ... level of their white neighbours, is yet a ... distant spark": Governor General Sir Edmund Head's Commission "to Investigate Indian Affairs in Canada."

1857--Gradual Civilization Act passed; males "sufficiently advanced in the elementary branches of education" could be enfranchised (they would no longer be "Indians," and could vote).

1861--St. Mary's Mission Indian Residential School, Mission, and Presbyterian Coqualeetza Indian Residential School, Chilliwack, first residential schools in B.C., established.

1862--Blue Quills Indian Residential School (Hospice of St. Joseph / Lac la Biche Boarding School) established at St. Paul, AB; first residential school on the Prairies.

1867--Confederation: British North America Act (now Constitution Act, 1867) establishes federal jurisdiction over Indians. Thus, while education is under provincial jurisdiction, Indian matters including education are federal.

Fort Providence and Fort Resolution Indian Residential Schools established; first residential schools north of 60[degrees].

1871--Treaty No. 1 entered into at Lower Fort Garry: "Her Majesty agrees to maintain a school on each reserve ... whenever the Indians of the reserve should desire it." This promise, repeated in subsequent treaties (though hedged in Treaties No. 5 on), reflected desire of Indian leadership to ensure transition of their youth to demands of anticipated newcomer society.

1876--Indian Act passed into law by Parliament.

1879--Nicholas Flood Davin, journalist and defeated Tory candidate, commissioned by Prime Minister Macdonald, also Minister of the Interior, to produce proposal for Indian education; visits US industrial schools grounded in policy of "aggressive civilization"; produces Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds. Four residential schools already operated in Ontario; "mission schools" planned for the west. This date generally taken to mark beginning of Indian Residential Schools, though the system had early predecessors in New France and New Brunswick, and several schools were already operating. Duncan Campbell Scott, best known later as a "Confederation poet," joins Indian Affairs at age 17 as...

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