Canada: apologies to former Indian boarding school students

When you think of America, you also think of its original inhabitants, the Indians. They were oppressed and chased away for years. Their cultural heritage became taboo and the policy was aimed at assimilating the children. That is why they were kidnapped from their parents and often did not see them for years. Contact with their family was cruelly broken. The children had a difficult life in the boarding schools where they were placed… The Canadian government has now (June 12, 2008) officially apologized to the Indian population. This apology mainly concerned the policy of the boarding schools at the time. About 150,000 children of Native American descent were forced there. They were taken from their parents and therefore also from their culture. The policy was aimed at assimilating the Indians into white society. Everything that reminded of Indian culture was forbidden.


It was an emotional event. The ceremony was held in the House of Commons in Ottawa. Among those present were leaders of Indian organizations as well as hundreds of former boarding school students. Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his regret about the state of affairs in the boarding schools. He admitted that children here were not only deprived of their cultural identity, but also suffered mental, physical and sometimes sexual abuse.

Prime Minister Harper literally says:

“The government recognizes that the impact of the Indian boarding school policy has been enormously negative and has caused lasting damage to Indian culture, heritage and languages. The Canadian government sincerely apologizes and asks for forgiveness from the Indian peoples for the gross negligence committed against them. We are sorry.,


Notorious boarding schools

The infamous boarding schools were founded in the nineteenth century. With the aim of tackling ‘the Indian problem’ and making it ‘disappear’. The Indian and his culture had to be eradicated. Ultimately there were 130 of these ‘assimilation institutions’. The last school closed its doors in 1973. Since then, more and more has become known about what happened behind these school walls. The Canadian state previously acknowledged that it was wrong and the estimated 80,000 former students have now been told that they are entitled to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in compensation.


The leaders of Indian organizations are optimistic about the future. They see the apology as a new beginning in relations between the Indians and the residents of Canada. This was reported by Phil Fontaine, he is the chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He did this during the historic speech to the House of Commons. Normally this right is reserved only for members. Proud of his origins and dressed in a large feather headdress, he expresses the wish that this house will never again regard his people as an ‘Indian problem’. It will then only be about who we are.

The head of the largest Inuit (Eskomo) organization, Mary Simon, addressed the Canadian parliament

“After listening, I feel great optimism that today we mark the end of a dark period in our common history. A new day has dawned, dedicated to reconciliation.”

During the entire ceremony, everything could be followed outside on large screens. The images could also be followed via television at several Indian communities. The spectators were enthusiastic and cheered after the announcement of the apology by the Canadian government. Traditional drum dances were performed there and old Indian songs were sung. The speeches were received emotionally by the many spectators. Tears streamed down the cheeks of some after hearing the apology.

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