A National Crime

The Canadian Government and the Residential School System


A National Crime

“I am going to tell you how we are treated. I am always hungry.” — Edward B., a student at Onion Lake School (1923)

"[I]f I were appointed by the Dominion Government for the express purpose of spreading tuberculosis, there is nothing finer in existance that the average Indian residential school.” — N. Walker, Indian Affairs Superintendent (1948)

For over 100 years, thousands of Aboriginal children passed through the Canadian residential school system. Begun in the 1870s, it was intended, in the words of government officials, to bring these children into the “circle of civilization,” the results, however, were far different. More often, the schools provided an inferior education in an atmosphere of neglect, disease, and often abuse. Using previously unreleased government documents, historian John S. Milloy provides a full picture of the history and reality of the residential school system. He begins by tracing the ideological roots of the system, and follows the paper trail of internal memoranda, reports from field inspectors, and letters of complaint. In the early decades, the system grew without planning or restraint. Despite numerous critical commissions and reports, it persisted into the 1970s, when it transformed itself into a social welfare system without improving conditions for its thousands of wards. A National Crime shows that the residential system was chronically underfunded and often mismanaged, and documents in detail and how this affected the health, education, and well-being of entire generations of Aboriginal children.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Cover 1
Contents 6
Foreword by Mary Jane Logan McCallum 10
Preface to the 1999 Edition 32
Acknowledgements, 1999–2017 34
Introduction 36
Part 1. Vision: The Circle of Civilized Conditions 46
Chapter 1. The Tuition of Thomas Moore 48
Chapter 2. The Imperial Heritage, 1830 to 1879 56
Chapter 3. The Founding Vision of Residential School Education, 1879 TO 1920 68
Part 2. Reality: The System at Work, 1879 to 1946 94
Chapter 4. "A National Crime": Building and Managing the System, 1879 to 1946 96
Chapter 5. "The Charge of Manslaughter": Disease and Death, 1879 to 1946 122
Chapter 6. "We Are Going to Tell You How We Are Treated": Food and Clothing, 1879 to 1946 154
Photographs 173
Chapter 7. The Parenting Presumption: Neglect and Abuse 184
Chapter 8. Teaching and Learning, 1879 to 1946 212
Part 3. Integration and Guardianship, 1946 to 1986 242
Chapter 9. Integration for Closure, 1946 to 1986 244
Chapter 10. Persistence: The Struggle for Closure 266
Chapter 11. Northern and Arctic Assimilation 294
Chapter 12. The Failure of Guardianship: Neglect and Abuse, 1946 to 1986 314
Epilogue. Beyond Closure, 1992 to 1998 350
Appendix 362
Notes 364
References 443
Index 452