Honest Skepticism About Residential Schools

Below, you will find very revealing “comments” on an article about the cult of the so-called “Noble-Savage” that was recently published in the on-line Journal Quillette, by Toronto journalist Jonathan Kay (himself now an Editor of this Journal). Kay’s article is here:


The article is interesting, but in some cases poorly informed. I think he could have benefited from reading Professor Tom Flanagan’s book, First Nations, Second Thoughts (McGill-Queen’s, 2008), and also Widdowson and Howard’s Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry (McGill-Queen’s, 2008), prior to publishing his article. In the article, he offers some personal observations on Canada’s residential schools.

[As an aside – My own interest in this topic comes from the fact that I recently finished translating an Eighteenth-century French book that has never before been translated into English before, called Le Voyageur Français (1768), or, The French Traveler. It is a fascinating, but not very politically-correct rendering of Indian and colonial life in Canada in the mid-eighteenth century, and is presently under review by McGill-Queen’s University Press, with a view to publication before the end of 2018].

Now, back to Kay and Canada’s residential schools. Human nature being what it is, there were clearly some cruel abuses in Canada’s residential schools over the period of more than one hundred years. They were not run by angels. But there were just as obviously many wonderful stories of otherwise neglected children who thrived at these schools. At any rate, I have long been suspicious of much of the public account.

This began when my friend Rod Clifton, who taught for a year at a residential school in the far north of Canada, reported personally to me: “The children were often brought to our school straight out of the forest, dirty and hungry, their parents begging us to take them in. Sometimes they wandered in from the forest by themselves.”

Given the current account of “the Whiteman” as an oppressor rounding up Indian children and brainwashing and beating them in residential schools, this was a little surprising to hear.

Then I read this snippet in Canada’s History magazine (Oct-Nov, 2017), about a Chief named A.G. Smith, who was employed as an interpreter by the Anglican Church, and was a proud graduate of The Mohawk Institute – an Anglican-run residential school situated in Brantford, Ontario, that opened in 1834 and took in a lot of orphaned and destitute children, some non-native.

The article states: “Like all residential schools, it had a mixed legacy. But at the time it was a source of pride. It’s graduates included teachers, farmers, tradesmen, clerks, and a few clergymen and physicians” (p.34). It goes on to say that from the perspective of some visiting Chiefs in 1886 [after 50 years of operation] “schools like this were beacons of opportunity for their children,” and that Chief North Axe, after his first visit, “requested that his son and his brother be educated at the Mohawk Institute” (p.35).

For those who, like me, distrust the official account and want to follow it up, here are a couple of the Comments on Kay’s piece, submitted by “Skeptical”, and by “SRHope” . The italics are mine. Follow the links! 

skeptical April 23, 2018 

skeptical begins by Quoting from Kay’s article: “And generations of Indigenous children were forcibly sent to church-and government-run residential schools, which systematically stripped away their culture and language.” and then adds his own thoughts, as follows:

In truth, Indigenous children were very seldom sent to residential schools ‘forcibly’, unless it was their parents doing the forcing.

As a researcher who has worked in the area for many years, I have seen literally hundreds of documents indicating that Indigenous parents were often eager to send their children to residential schools, many of which had waiting lists.

They were generally more reluctant to send their children to day schools, because then they (the parents) would have had to abandon their winter trap-lines and remain on the reserve to be at home for their children.

Residential schools, expensive and difficult to run, came into existence because reserve-based day schools, cheap but difficult to staff, failed to attract more than a handful of eligible children.

None of this is part of the Official Narrative, but it is true, nevertheless.


srhope1989outlookcom April 23, 2018

As your view is so at odds with the widely-accepted one, I’d very much like to look at your evidence. Can you provide links, please?


Skeptical April 23, 2018

 I cannot provide you with evidence because, although what I said here is not in itself ‘protected’, most of the sources from which it derives are protected, for the good reason that much of it includes people’s personal information and names.

However, you can find information in the DIAND Annual Reports that tends to contradict much of the official version of the story, especially the early ones from between the 1870s until the 1930s.

You’ll see there that there were day schools and residential schools running at the same time; that there were day schools on most reserves; that many parents did not insist that their children attend them; that there were often Indigenous teachers at day schools; and that Indigenous languages were spoken by the teachers, whether they were Indigenous or not, at several residential schools.

This information is available in tables and in inspection reports found in the Department’s Annual Reports.

Use the word ‘school’ as a search term, if you like:





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