Residential Schools

The Residential School system for Aboriginal children has been part of the Canadian history since the late 19th century, when a shift in government policy resulted in what we know today as the process of forced assimilation of Aboriginal children.

The Residential School experience for Aboriginal, including some Inuit, in the Northwest Territories became reality in the late 1860s. The first government- regulated school for Inuit opened in 1951 in Chesterfield Inlet. After 1950, when Inuit became settlement based, almost all Inuit children were required to attend Residential Schools or federal hostels in order to receive a formal education. These schools were often far away from the new Inuit settlements which resulted in the separation of children and youth from their parents, kinship networks and traditional ways of life. Residential Schools for Inuit continued to open into the 1960s and by 1963, 3,997 Inuit children were attending these schools. In June 1964, 75 percent of Inuit children and youth aged six  to 15 years were enrolled in the schools.[1]

The Residential School experience has had far reaching and deep impact. It is believed that at least 3,000 Inuit who attended Residential School are still alive today, and according to the Aboriginal Peoples Survey, almost half (44 %) of 44 to 54 year olds had a close family member who attended these schools[1].. Inuit language, culture and spiritual beliefs were eroded as a result of the assimilation process. The effects on family and community have been numerous. Traditional Inuit education was passed on from adults to children and intertwined practical skills with cultural values. Traditional Inuit skills included hunting, meat and pelt preparation, sewing, building igloos and navigating the land and water.[2] The rich tradition of oral storytelling, music, dance and craft and a respect for the environment that were an integral part of Inuit knowledge and way of life was eroded as a result of the Residential School experience. Today, through healing and reconciliation, Inuit families and communities are working towards reclaiming traditional values and traditions.

In 2005, Pauktuutit published Sivumuapallianiq: Journey Forward. which is a national Inuit Residential Schools healing strategy. From this foundation the abuse prevention department has moved forward on several related topics including healing models for former students and their families, a DVD project with the National Inuit Youth Council.

Pauktuutit continues to work for and with Inuit women, their families and communities throughout the healing journey of former students. Current projects include raising awareness among Canadian youth through a partnership with the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre and the continued distribution of a special edition newsletter highlighting the deadlines of the Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Pauktuutit also looks forward to working the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ensure the unique voices and perspectives of Inuit women are integrated throughout their work.


[1] Aboriginal Peoples Survey, 2001 – Initial Findings: Well-being of the Non-Reserve Aboriginal Population. Statistics Canada, Ottawa, 2003.

[2] Information on the history of residential schools for Inuit is taken primarily from A Brief Report of The Federal Government of Canada’s Residential School System for Inuit by David King, prepared for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Ottawa, 2006


[1] Information on the history of residential schools for Inuit is taken primarily from A Brief Report of The Federal Government of Canada’s Residential School System for Inuit by David King, prepared for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Ottawa, 2006


Publications

ThumbnailsTitleAdditional NotesDatesDownloads

Suvaguuq – Special Edition

1996Download