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Widely established across Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries, particularly in the north, these schools were established to bring basic education to Indian and Inuit children. In effect, as well as in intent, these schools served to isolate the young from their own people and became an instrument of attempted cultural assimilation of aboriginal peoples into white European culture. Forced attendance in these schools, largely church run, broke the cultural continuity of aboriginal communities and led to the loss of traditional knowledge, skills and languages. Today they are seen as an example of colonial attitudes towards native people and it has become apparent that they caused great harm by inflicting psychological and physical isolation and abuse upon generations of aboriginal children. Many Native groups have struggled to have churches acknowledge the harm done and to institute healing programs and have pressured the federal government to acknowledge its role in this process. In addition, local programs of healing have been developed and Native communities and the broader society have had to come to terms with the legacy of residential schools.

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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*This social science dictionary has 1000
entries covering the disciplines of sociology, criminology, political
science and women's study with a commitment to Canadian examples and
events and names