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Welcome to the federal school

While Inuit parents were being moved from igloos to houses in the 1950s, their children were being assimilated into the Canadian education system. In the worst cases, children were taken from their families, harshly disciplined and stripped of their culture. Only over the past 25 years have the Inuit been permitted a voice to speak out about how their children are educated. After so many years of feeling marginalized by formal education, the Inuit today are a people trying to correct the damage.

This is the federal school at Frobisher Bay. One hundred students will attend, some living in residence and others coming just for part of the day. Erected in the 1950s, it's the only school in the region built "entirely for Eskimos." Today pre-school Inuit children get an introduction to the classroom. When they do start school a white teacher who knows nothing about their heritage will teach in a language they have never heard.
. Young Inuit students were encouraged to forget their own traditions and culture and embrace a white, modern lifestyle.
. Though the government had already seen some of the damage done by the Anglican and Catholic residential schools of the previous decades and didn't want to make the same mistakes, decision-makers in the 1950s maintained that removing the Inuk child from his family completely was the most effective way of instilling a new language and new values.

. The first educational institutions in the Northwest Territories were Anglican and Catholic missionary schools built in the 1860s. In the 1940s and 1950s, government inspections of residential schools revealed unlivable conditions. Overcrowded, poorly heated, dilapidated schools were common.
. Personal stories of physical and sexual abuse, cruelty, humiliation and food shortage have emerged from students of residential schools.

. Between 1955 and 1969, residential schools still operated in the Northwest Territories though control shifted from the church to the government.
. On April 1, 1969, the government assumed total responsibility for the school system, although churches still remained involved for some years to come. Most residential schools ceased by the mid-1970s; the last federally run residential school in Canada closed in 1996.
Medium: Television
Broadcast date: Aug. 10, 1963
Duration: 0:43

Last updated: February 1, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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