CBC-TV visits a residential school in 1955
Broadcast claimed residential school offered 'chance at a new future' for Indigenous children
Orphans, convalescents and those who live too deep in the wilderness for day school: those were the students of the residential school in remote Moose Factory, Ont.
For 10 months a year, these Indigenous children — some taken from their homes — started each day with a religious service before heading to classes.
To salute Education Week, a CBC Television crew visited the Anglican-run Bishop Horden Residential School and described its aim of leaving behind the "neglect and isolation of the past."
Before the 1950s, parents couldn't choose whether to send their children to a residential school.
All Indigenous people, both children and adults, were considered wards of the state. The churches recruited students and the Department of Indian Affairs employed "Indian agents" — white men whose job descriptions included ensuring all Indigenous children went to school.
Until 1951, the residential school curriculum consisted of a half-day of classroom study and a half-day of learning a trade. Boys were taught blacksmithing, carpentry and auto mechanics, while girls learned sewing, cooking and other domestic skills.
This system also made the schools cheaper to manage, as much of the labour needed to run them — milking cows, cleaning dormitories, chopping wood — was provided by the students.
The federal government began working with the churches — Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian — to set up the residential school system around 1874. Under the Indian Act, the government had a responsibility to educate Indigenous children. In general, residential schools were for children aged five to 16.
In 1931, at the peak of the residential school system, there were about 80 schools operating in Canada. They were in every territory and province except Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. There were a total of about 130 schools from the earliest in the late 19th century to the last, which closed in 1996.