Indigenous boarding schools in Canada and the U.S.

“Genocide is attempted collective destruction,” sociology professor Dr. Andrew Woolford said Feb. 2, 2015, in a talk based on his forthcoming book ‘This Benevolent Experiment’: Indigenous Boarding Schools, Genocide and Redress in Canada and the United States.

Comparing Indian Boarding Schools in the United States with Indian Residential Schools in Canada, Woolford argues that the border between the two countries was not rigid, with ideas flowing across towards solving the “Indian Problem.”

Woolford broke down the similarities and differences between Indian Boarding Schools in the United States and Indian Residential Schools in Canada. At the macro level, government and legal policy formation took place on the “Indian Problem.” The upper-meso level included institutional structures that implemented practices (e.g. police, Indian agents) following the policy. The lower-meso level included the schools themselves, which provided the assimilative education. Lastly, the micro level encompassed the specific boarding/residential schools and the communities involved. Woolford looks at both the human and non-human entities involved, as he analyzes the interactions and relations between students, teachers and parents, as well as things that are beyond human control, such as disease and sickness.

Questions:

What is your overall goal of the comparison between Indian Boarding Schools in the United States and Indian Residential Schools in Canada?

The initial reason was that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asked for a comparison between the two countries. There are common foundations (the “Indian Problem”) that manifest in different ways in both countries. But in the end, land is the ultimate concern during this time, and to secure the dispossession of Aboriginal people.

Do the Indian Boarding Schools in the United States and Indian Residential Schools in Canada come out of the long history of British boarding schools?

The institutional lineages come out of workhouses and poorhouses, places where marginalized people were placed within the United Kingdom. U.S. Indian Boarding Schools tended to follow more military forms of discipline, while within Canadian Indian Residential Schools, monastic forms of discipline were more common. 

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