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Residental Schools Long before Europeans came to North America aboriginal people had a highly developed system of education There was a great deal for aboriginal children to learn before they could survive on their own Aboriginal elders and parents passed on not only survival skills to their children but their history artistic ability music language moral and religious values When European missionaries began to live amongst aboriginal people they concluded that the sooner they could separate children from their parents the sooner they could prepare aboriginal people to live a civilized ie European lifestyle Residential schools were established for two reasons separation of the children from the family and the belief that aboriginal culture was not worth preserving Most people concluded that aboriginal culture was useless and dying and all human beings would eventually develop and change to be like the advanced European civilization Early residential schools were similar to religious missions Later the mission-run schools were administered jointly by Canadian churches and the federal government and for a number of years residential schools became official Canadian policy for the education of Indian children Aboriginal children as young as six left the world of their families and were sent into the unfamiliar world of the white man Children were usually rounded up in August and transported to residental schools They were issued clothes and assigned a bed number Even though many of the children could not speak any English the supervisors spoke only English to them The children were in fact punished for speaking their native languages For as long as a year and occasionally for several years children were unable to express to anyone in authority what their basic needs were Loneliness sickness confusion and abuse all had to be borne in lonely silence Many things combined to make the experience difficult for young aboriginal children They included the suffocating heat of the buildings the painful need for someone to talk to
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