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Abuse in residential schools affects the next generation

The Story


Residents of some northern Ontario reserves are reeling from a series of suicides by their young people, and they're pointing to their own past as the culprit. With no parental role models, a generation raised in residential schools has passed on the trauma to their kids. A CBC Radio reporter visits the reserve and finds that many parents have gone back to native traditions in an effort to combat the lessons of their youth.

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: April 2, 1993
Guests: Garnet Ajunicab, Cueney Navagone
Host: Michael McIvor
Reporter: Colleen Rooney
Duration: 4:45

Did You know?


• Many students at residential schools rarely had opportunities to see examples of normal family life. They were in school ten months a year, and parents usually weren't allowed to visit them. Letters home were copied from the blackboard and written in English -- which many parents couldn't read. Brothers and sisters at the same school rarely saw each other, as all activities were segregated by sex.

• When students returned to the reserve, they often found they didn't belong. They didn't have the skills to help their parents, and constant belittling of their culture by school authorities taught them to view native ways as inferior. The education at the schools was generally substandard, so it was also hard to function in an urban setting. For some, life after residential school was like being on an island between two worlds.

• With loneliness, isolation and abuse as their model in childhood, generations of residential school students went on to demonstrate the same behaviour with their own children. Not all problems of addiction, abuse and neglect on reserves can be attributed to residential schools, but at the time of this clip, many people were just coming to grips with the painful legacy of the schools.

• Reserves have responded to the problem of suicide in young people by helping native youth gain a sense of identity. Traditional practices such as smudging (in which a person is "bathed" in smoke from burning sage or sweetgrass), sweat lodges (heated tents where participants have visions and rid themselves of impurities), and language learning have all been used to combat the hopelessness and grief that can lead to suicide.


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