Current Issue:

            Although Canada from the outside is seen to the country
of freedom. For the Native American, Metis and Inuit youth it’s a place where
the past constantly comes to haunt them. In 2016, Statistics Canada has found that
suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First the world – 11 times the
national average. “Suicide and self-inflicted injuries are the leading causes
of death for First Nations youth and adults up to 44 years of age.” (A
Statistical Profile on the Health of First Nations in Canada for the Year 2000,
Health Canada, 2003). These current issues amongst the first nation’s youth did
not spurs out of the nowhere. These troubles are purely the aftermath of our
history, side effects of poor child rearing. As it will be explained, the
practice of poor child rearing, is rather by product of the inequality
treatment of first nations such as the residential schools.

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History: Residential
Schools, Reserve and Unequal Treatment

            This discipline aims to examine the history of our
treatment of young indigenous people. History helps us understand change and
how the society we live in came to be and also history is inescapable as a
subject of serious study follows closely on our world. The past causes the
present, and so the future. Within history we can reflect on our actions and
see how the action of the past affect the future of tomorrow. This discipline
will look at the effects on residential schools and the implementations of
reserves, which then how it affected and lead to the loss of identity, language
and culture in which the effects of is evident in today’s society.  

The History and Aim of
Residential Schools

history of residential schools starts as such. In the 19th century,
the country felt as if it was their responsibilities to educate and culture the
native Americans, as to them they seemed uneducated. Their inability to
understand their cultures and ways of living lead to the civil unrest of the
present. Their definition of educating these Native Americans was to force
Christianity upon them and to teach them English. Ideally, this would result in
an abolishment of the Native American culture thus promising a continuous of
the Canadian culture. In order to really ensure the success of this mission,
the Canadian government thought that children were simply much more easily to
mold that adults (which I will discuss with in Psychology). Hence came the
creation of residential schools. All native children that did not attend a day
school were forced to attend the residential schools. For more than a century, well over
100,000 aboriginal children attended the institutions, jointly run by Ottawa
and four Canadian churches. In all, around 20 per cent of natives, often the
poorest from families in crisis, went to the schools. Over the years,
politicians and bureaucrats tried to describe the schools in lofty terms;
19th-century documents said the facilities would keep the children “within
the circle of civilized conditions” where they would get the “care of
a mother.” Underlying the lofty rhetoric was one disastrous goal:
assimilation by stripping aboriginals of their language and culture (Canadian
Encyclopedia).  Although the aim of this
may have had good intents, the mode of completing this goal was inhumane.
Student were punished for speaking in their mother tongue, which truly ensure
the removal of Native American culture. Also within residential schools many
children endured physical, mental, and sexual abuse (Canadian Encyclopedia).
Aboriginal children also could barely see their family if ever. Furthermore,
there were experiments that were being conducted with the permission and
acknowledgement of the federal government. Experiments were done in the 1940s
and 1950s, where the Indian Affairs doctors saw a correlation between malnutrition
and the epidemic of tuberculosis. Yet instead of giving vitamin supplements to
all the children in the schools, the doctors choose to only give 125 children
vitamin supplements so they could see if any improvements were made, and in the
end there were improvements made. (Mosby 2-5) This experiment was one of many
that were carried out under the approval of the house of committee. These
evidently unethical experiments were not only a reflection of how the
government of Canada back them did not see first nations as equals, but also a
underlying cause of the psychological trauma.

 The Effects of the Residential Schools

            The effects of residential schools are still prevalent in
our world of today. This is a growing concern for our country as the native
American population is the fastest growing population yet. Since 1986 to 2011,
the native American population has grown from 373,265 to 1,400,685, an increase
of 275%, while the population of Canada increased by only 32% in the same
period of time (Flanagan 1). So, if we aren’t treating aboriginals with care
and respect, they will be bigger problems to deal with in the future.

the Census 2006, it was found that indigenous people have a high rate of
poverty, drug addictions, homelessness etc. These are purely the side effects
of residential schools. When children were forced into residential schools,
they lost everything they had. Their family, their culture and their identity. However,
this was only the start of the downfall. When returned to back to their
community they had no ways of communicating with their family members. They
could no longer partake in cultural and religious practices; hence they became
outcasts from their community. Now no longer having a community to attach their
identity onto, maybe aboriginal children struggled with depression, anxiety,
alcoholism and drug addiction. What was ought to be a happy return home was a
miserable detachment from society.


Psychology’s role in this essay is to comprehend on a psychological level, the
damage and effects of residential schools. More specifically we will be
focusing on developmental psychology. Within this discipline, we are going to
take a look at 2 theories and how the loss of identity and culture due to
residential schools result in suicidal thoughts, major depressive disorder, anxiety etc.

peoples suffer from a range of health problems at higher rates than occur in
the general Canadian population, and they continue to have a substantially
shorter life expectancy (Statistics Canada, 1). This is largely due to higher
infant mortality and increased rates of death among young people by accident
and suicide.

Jerome Bruner’s theory discuss that we, as human, have the innate
behavior to derive meaning from our culture create meaning and it
is the culture that we participate in that provides the experiences by which we
construct our world and our ‘meanings.’ These meanings form our cultural
identity as well as our individual identity. He believes we search for and are
predisposed to make associations using language in order to create meaning in
our lives. He discusses our pre-linguistic ‘readiness for meaning.’ This
enables us to learn language; developing associations by using symbols
(internalized) which then help us create meaning in our world. Participating in
our culture is necessary in order to form associations and thereby create
meaning. An important aspect of suicidal behaviour is the loss of identity and
cultural continuity. To define cultural continuity is found within a report
made in 2005 by Health Canada called, “Acting on What We Know: Preventing Youth
Suicide in First Nations”. Within this report, cultural continuity is defined
as, “Cultural continuity has to do with the transmission of knowledge, values
and identity from one generation to the next. Where this transmission is
conducted with a sense of individual and collective health and wellness, belief
in an optimistic future, and ability to make decisions today for tomorrow,
there will be cultural continuity. Culture and community are not static
entities but constantly evolving and changing in response to changing social
realities. As such, continuity does not mean simply maintaining the past or
repeating actions prescribed by tradition, but re-creating and re-inventing
communal practices in ways that maintain connections, honour the past, and
incorporate a sense of shared history (p.100).” As it is obviously seen within
many, but not all, first nations communities cultural continuity is lost
amongst them due to residentials schools. Residential school’s main aim was to
destroy first nation’s culture. Hence as said by Health Canada, culture
continuity is the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation; when
children came back residential schools this transmission was not able to be
made, due to the language barrier and the assimilation of western culture within
the residential children. Now without this cultural continuity, there is now a
loss of identity. Many first nations youths don’t know who they are, where they
came from and what their purpose is in this world, due to this they often
experience culture stress. Culture stress factors are defined as “the loss of
confidence by individuals or groups in the ways of understanding life and
living (norms, values and beliefs) that were taught to them within their
original culture(s), and the personal or collective distress that may result.”8
This includes loss of control over land and living conditions, breakdown of
cultural values and belief systems, loss of identity and self-esteem, and
discrimination, as a result of colonization and the trauma of assimilative
policies and practices. (RCAP 2) Sometime this culture stress can be
overwhelming especially youth as they are dealing with their self identity aside
from this stress. Sadly, this combination of culture stress and struggle to
find self identity may them more prone to suicide.

Suicidal behaviour is not the only area where Aboriginal youth fair
less well than their non-Aboriginal counter-parts. Other high risk-behaviours
including criminal activities are problematic with Aboriginal youth. This is
reflected in the Canadian prison population that is over represented by those
with Aboriginal heritage. According to a Statistics Canada report authored by
Caverley (2005) entitled ‘Youth Custody and Community Services in Canada’: In
2004/2005, there were about 31,700 young persons (aged 12 to 17 years) admitted
to correctional services. Of those, 15,900 (50%) admissions were to custody and
15,800 (50%) admissions were to community supervision, with the majority
(12,900 or 81%) of community supervision admissions being to probation.…
Aboriginal youth are highly represented within correctional services. Nearly
one-third of all females and just over one-in-five 165 Native Social Work
Journal Suicide and Aboriginal Youth: Cultural Considerations in Understanding
Positive Youth Development males admitted to sentenced custody were Aboriginal.
Overall, Aboriginal youth made up one-quarter of all sentenced custody
admissions in 2004/2005, yet they represent approximately 5% of the total youth
population (p. 1). Keating and Hertzman (1999), when discussing stresses on
Canadian families, cite Keating & Mustard (1993) stating, “during periods
of profound social change, such as the present, some sectors of society are at
high risk of encountering a decline of social support and hence adequate
nurturing of developmental needs” (p. 1). Bronfenbrenner (cited in Keating and
Hertzman, 1999) adamantly proclaims that profound cultural changes are
detrimental to youth. When examining the health and well-being of youth he
discusses: “troubling scientific evidence that pointed to a societal breakdown
in the process of ‘making human beings human’: ‘The signs of this breakdown are
seen in the growing rates of alienation, apathy, rebellion, delinquency and
violence we have observed in youth in this nation in recent decades’.…Today
they have reached a critical stage that is much more difficult to reverse. The
main reason is that forces of disarray, increasingly being generated in the
larger society, have been producing growing chaos in the lives of children and
youth (p.1).

Epidemiological studies have
documented high levels of mental health problems in many Canadian Aboriginal
communities (Visions Journal 6-7). The high rates of suicide, alcoholism, and
violence seen in Aboriginal communities, can be readily understood as the
direct consequences of a history of dislocations and the disruption of
traditional subsistence patterns and connection to the land (Brass 11), such as
residential schools. Most estimates of the prevalence of psychiatric disorders
are based on service utilization records, but since many Aboriginal people
never come for treatment. That is due the fact that mental illnesses within
their culture would be treated by their priest and medication and therapy are
against a lot of aboriginal people’s beliefs. Hence service utilization is at
best only a lower estimate of the true prevalence of distress in the community.
Studies indicate rates of psychiatric disorders varying from levels comparable
to those found in the general population to up to twice those of neighboring non-Aboriginal
communities. In the US, Kinzie and colleagues conducted a 1988 follow-up study
of a Northwest Coast village originally studied by Shore and colleagues in
1969. The Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia Lifetime version
(SADS-L), with a supplementary section on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
was used to generate DSM-III-R diagnoses. In all, 31.4% of the subjects met
criteria for a current DSM-III-R diagnosis. A marked sex difference was observed,
with nearly 46% of men and only 18.4% of women affected. Most of those who were
fully employed (88%) had no diagnosis of mental disorders. The presence of a
diagnosis was not related to marital status, age, or educational level. As in
the 1969 study, the most impressive finding in 1988 was the high rate of
alcohol-related problems: the lifetime rate of alcohol dependence was almost
57%, while the current dependency and abuse rate was 21%. Similar or even
higher rates have been reported in other American Indian populations (Beauvais


            As of today, many apologies have been said. Many programs
have been made to help those Native American who have suffered the long-term
effects of residential schools and the unequal treatment of today. However, we
must keep in mind, we will never be able to re compensate them for their
psychological trauma. Also, that we should learn and take away from this event,
a very important lesson. (which is?) There is a currently a program called Indian
Residential Schools Survivor Support Workers Program. The survivor support
program facilitates the development of a support system to empower the
claimants to become prepared to appear at their court hearings. Included in the
program will be seminars and services which meet the members’ individual needs.
The goal is primarily to provide effective holistic strength to the survivors
prior to, during and after the ADR and litigation processes. All of these
programs are beneficial for those native Americans wanting to get back on their
feet. In the future, we must make an effort to involve them. Such as, having
more aboriginal representatives in the government.

If we look at it
historically, other countries such as Australia and very much like us has
indigenous people living as a big part of their population. Even from the past,
Australia was way ahead of its time. Just like Canada, Australia did have a
rough history with their first nations. There was also an attempt to “civilize”
their first nations people, yet they were not as forceful and unethical
Canada’s way to civilizing them. Governor MacQuarrie established an educational
institution for the first nations and reserved some land for them on the shore
of Port Jackson. However, due to the fact that it wasn’t forceful, aboriginal
peoples held to their own beliefs and lifestyles and stayed within Paramatta.
Another intelligent Australia had was that when aboriginals were dispossessed
of their land, many of them remained and became pastoral station workers. The
Aboriginal peoples and Europeans was based more on mutual benefits rather than
solely having benefits for Europeans. The advantage of this particular
relationship was that it left the first nations still have that connection with
their sacred land, which is psychologically and tribally extremely important to
the first nations.

            In the years of 1860 – 1930, the House of Commons of
Select Committee on Aborigines attempted to protect the Aboriginals from the
problems of the British colony. However these good intents didn’t have a good
ending. When the house of commons entitled the Aborigines Protection Act, hence
establishing a ‘Board of the Protection of Aborigines’. From there, all parts
of Australia implemented the Aborigines protection act and other acts were developed.
Every act created was rather just a way of controlling an Aboriginal person’s
life. The officials on the board called protectors dictated where they could
live, where they had to work, who and who was not an Aboriginal person. In the
end, what was supposedly a good thing, Aboriginals were confined to these
settlements. Thus, just like Canada, Australia did try to weed out the
Aboriginal culture. However, what we must learn from them is their solution,
because sometimes we must focus more on the solution rather than the problem.

            In 1967, the commonwealth legislation was introduced and
consisted of enabling and finding measures such the establishment of the
Aboriginal Development Commission and of the Commonwealth Department of
Aboriginal Affairs. The legislation helped aboriginal people by providing them
with the means to develop their own organizations and services thus contributed
to the growth of Aboriginal pride and self – confidence. The currently policy
emphasized self – government. In the Northern Territory, land councils gave the
Aboriginals the means to organize their affairs independently of the state

            Taking a psychologically aspect from
it, cultural continuity is a protective factor against suicide, as seen in
Chandler and Lalonde’s study. Within this study there were two hypotheses,
the first hypothesis being Province wide suicide as an actuarial fiction. Refer
to Figure 1. This same pattern of results was also present in our second
(1993-2000) wave of data collection. Figures 2 and 3 combine Wave One and Two
data, and array youth suicide rates, first by band and then tribal council.
What these data show is that some 90 percent of the province’s Aboriginal youth
suicides occur in less than 10 percent of the bands, and that in more than 50 percent
of bands, and one in five of tribal councils, youth suicide is effectively

Second hypothesis Hypothesis
Two: Cultural Continuity As a Hedge Against Aboriginal Youth Suicide Hypothesis
Two was predicated on the assumption that distinctive cultural groups, like
individual selves, are constituted by identity preserving practices that work
to forge links to a common past and future. On this prospect, it was
anticipated that Aboriginal communities bereft of such sustaining ties would
prove to be at special risk for suicide, while those that had already achieved
a greater measure of success in preserving such connections would be better
shielded from some of the slings and arrows 6 that regularly cost young
Aboriginal persons a proper measure of appropriate care and concern for their
own future wellbeing. Two waves of data, meant to test this hypothesis, were
again collected. During the first of these study periods (Wave One), available
federal and provincial records were carefully sifted with the aim of locating
community-level variables descriptive of common efforts to preserve links to a
shared cultural past, and to forge a common cultural civic future. Six such
markers of “cultural continuity” were initially identified, including
indications of whether each of BC’s 197 distinctive bands, and 23 tribal
councils, had: achieved a measure of self-government; litigated for Aboriginal
title to traditional lands; accomplished a measure of local control over
health, education and policing services; and had created community facilities
for the preservation of culture. Summing across these dichotomized measures
yielded an overall “Cultural Continuity Index” ranging from 0 to 6. The average
youth suicide rates for all bands scoring at one or the other of these six
“Cultural Continuity
Levels” are detailed in Figure 4. As can be seen from an inspection of this
figure, those bands that evidenced all of these “Cultural Continuity Factors”
had no youth suicides during our first study window—suicide rates that are
remarkably lower than those characteristic of the non Aboriginal population at
large. By contrast, bands (and tribal councils) that evidenced none of these
“protective” factors suffered youth suicide rates many times the national
average. Clearly, bands that enjoy more substantial ties to their cultural past
and collective future also experience youth suicide rates that are vanishing to
absent. Wave Two of this ongoing program of data collection (1993-2000) newly
replicates and extends our previously findings. Our earlier work is extended by
identifying two new cultural continuity markers demonstrating that bands that
have achieved a measure of local control over child welfare services, and that
are characterized by having elected band councils composed of more than 50
percent women also evidence dramatically lower youth suicide rates. As can be
seen by an inspection of Figure 5, bands
characterized by all of this extended list of Cultural Continuity factors again
show zero-order levels of both youth and adult suicide, while those
characterized by none of these factors suffer epidemic suicide levels.

in conclusion Taken altogether, this extended program of research strongly
supports two major conclusions. First, generic claims about youth suicide rates
for the whole of any Aboriginal world are, at best actuarial fictions that
obscure critical community-by community differences in the frequency of such
deaths. Second, individual and cultural continuity are strongly linked, such
that First Nations communities that succeed in taking steps to preserve their
heritage culture, and that work to control their own destinies, are
dramatically more successful in insulating their youth against the risks of