Winnipeg researchers net $500K for residential schools study
Aboriginal men to share their experiences in digital storytelling project
The University of Winnipeg has received a $500,000 grant to study the intergenerational impacts of Canada's residential schools system.
The university announced on Monday that its Oral History Centre has received the grant from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to produce a digital storytelling project.
As part of the project, researchers will speak with aboriginal men who were raised by those who were students of residential schools.
The latest study builds on similar research that was carried out in 2010, when six aboriginal women shared their stories of being raised by mothers who had to attend the schools.
Lorena Fontaine, an associate professor of indigenous studies at the university, said she shared her story of being raised by a residential school survivor.
"I felt acknowledged, for the first time in my life," she said.
"Because this period of my life that had such an impact on me, that I couldn't talk about, I finally could."
Forced to attend schools
Residential schools operated during much of the 19th and 20th centuries, as part of a federal government policy aimed at forcing the assimilation of young aboriginal people into European-Canadian society.
A total of about 150,000 aboriginal, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their families and communities and forced to attend the church-run, government-funded schools.
Many students were barred from speaking their native languages or engaging in their culture at the schools. Some also reported experiencing physical and sexual abuse.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a federally-appointed panel that is documenting the residential school experience, has heard from the children of survivors about the effects their parents' experiences have had on them and on subsequent generations.
Fontaine said the aim of the University of Winnipeg study is to promote healing, adding that sharing her story helped her change her life for the better.
Researchers acknowledged it can be tougher for men to speak out about their experiences because they are generally taught to stay strong.
However, they added that staying silent can create anger, addictions and other personal issues.
The research begins this month in Winnipeg and runs until March 2014.