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Cultural Assimilation In Residential Schools

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Assimilation is not a word the aboriginals take too kindly. Wayne Warry (2007) defined it as the “process by which a minority population is absorbed into a prevailing dominant culture”; the dominant culture being that of the European. The fastest way to assimilate the Indians was to remove the children from their homes (the government had already lost hope on the adults) and force them into residential schools. The recommendation came from N.F. Davin who took the idea from native schools based within the United States. At this time the government believed that they owed it to the “poor Indian” to give them an “equal chance of success”. Residential schools offered religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic like the day schools but also…show more content…
Natives are very spiritual and believe they are part of something bigger; that everything (biology, chemistry, physics, psychology) is all interrelated and that everything has a spirit. Europeans follow a less spiritual and a more individualistic approach seeing life as more of a lab setting where items can be quantified and manipulated, and learning from books or by being told what to do and how to behave. The non-native instructional methods are also different than the learning methods of natives. Natives learn by watching and doing, usually working/learning alongside their families and elders like an apprenticeship. As Friesen & Friesen (2002) put it: to teach a Native to hunt you take him hunting, you do not explain it from a book and expect them to learn. Natives also learn from legends and stories often told by the elders and medicine men. Legends are a necessity in the indigenous culture and can be spiritual, moral, entertaining as well as teaching. The European educators had an authoritarian style and were new to Canada thus were not aware of the native ways or their culture. When the government was supposedly helping the Indians they were actually hindering them by ignoring their native ideals and instilling European ones instead. The intentions were to have Indians be more like the superior Europeans but their way about it was damaging to the Indian’s identity. As Warry (2007) pointed out, identity is not only necessary but crucial for the self, good health, and
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