Indian Horse film delves into Canada’s dark history of residential schools

The drama, executive produced by Clint Eastwood, is based on the late Richard Wagamese’s novel about an Ojibway residential school survivor and hockey player.

When Canadian director Stephen S. Campanelli showed his new film Indian Horse to his mentor, Clint Eastwood, the four-time Oscar winner was in disbelief.

In theatres Friday, the drama is based on late Canadian author Richard Wagamese’s acclaimed novel, about an Ojibway residential school survivor who faces racism and systemic barriers as he becomes a formidable hockey player.

The story gives an unvarnished look at the brutal history of the residential school system in Canada, and Eastwood was floored.

“He didn’t believe it,” Campanelli, who grew up in Montreal and lives in California, recalled in an interview at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival.

“He was like, ‘What? You Canadians did this?’ I said, ‘Yeah, believe it or not.’ He said, ‘How come no one knows about this?’ I said, ‘Well, they will soon.”‘

Eastwood then signed on as an executive producer to help promote the film.

Source: Indian Horse delves into Canada’s dark history of residential schools | CBC News

Fading memory, fragmented records and the passage of time keep some residential school truths hidden forever

Fading memory, fragmented records and the passage of time keep some residential school truths hidden forever

(Norman Yakeleya, the NWT MLA for the Sahtu, says the federal government needs to fund the continued search for the children who never came home from residential schools. APTN/Photo)

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
It was at about 3:30 p.m. on a Friday in January 1958 when the truck pulled up next to the Edmonton Indian Residential School with a coffin from the hospital.

George Muldoe, 13 at the time, was in charge of the grave digging. He and two other boys had a shovel and pick for the job. He remembers bone-chilling cold, maybe -30C, when they started hewing at the frozen ground until dark.

They dug all day Saturday and into Sunday.

“It took us over two days to bury one person,” said Muldoe, who is now 71 and attended the residential school from 1951 to 1962.

Muldoe was from the Gitxsan community of Kispiox in British Columbia but the children from his area were sent to the United Church-run residential school in Alberta. The children were put on a train for a three-hour ride and fed spoiled baloney sandwiches.

He can’t erase the memory of the grave digging.

“The only way to get rid of this is when we die, it’s the only way. You never get rid of it period,” he said.

He buried three coffins, all from the Camsell Hospital where Inuit and Dene suffering from tuberculosis in the Northern territories were sent for treatment. He said they dug the graves with no supervision from school officials.

Continue reading….

Not even human: TB experiments on First Nations kids

tb virus
Indigenous children were experimented on with a TB vaccine. Culture shown above…

‘Not Even Human’

How Canadian Govt. Abused Aboriginal Children in TB Experiments

ICTMN Staff, July 28, 2013

While aboriginal children died of tuberculosis in the 1930s and 1940s, Canadian health officials tried out experimental vaccines on infants rather than ameliorate the conditions of poverty that sparked that and a host of other illnesses.

These revelations, while not new, have re-emerged in the wake of the discovery that nutritional experiments were conducted on First Nations children in the 1940s.

As with the nutritional experiments, the TB vaccine research capitalized on the poverty of its subjects to conduct studies rather than address the underlying factors leading to the high incidence of the lung infection, says a report by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

“It is pretty depressing. It is just document after document. They treated these people like they were not even human,” said Maureen Lux, a professor at Brock University who is writing a book about the treatment of indigenous people in TB sanitoriums, in an interview with the network. “It is definitely the hardest thing I have ever done.”

In the interview posted by APTN on July 24, Lux discussed the findings she had first published in a 1998 paper on the vaccine trials, which she is expanding into the book due out next year.

“Historians have been reluctant to question medical care because we are enthralled with the power of medicine,” she told APTN. “Once I started looking at what was going and how they were operated and in whose interest, it becomes a fairly dark story.”

In studying aboriginal people and the medical system, Lux examined reserve conditions in southern Saskatchewan, in the Qu’Appelle region, during the early 20th century.

In expanding her paper on the treatment of indigenous people in sanatoriums, she found that a federal program that ran from 1930 to 1932 had cut the tuberculosis rate in half by improving housing conditions, drilling wells to access better-quality water, and enhancing nutrition for children and pregnant women. Lux’s paper, “Perfect Subjects: Race Tuberculosis and the Qu’Appelle BCG Vaccine Trial,” detailed these findings, as well as the fact that the government had chosen to ignore this solution and seek the cheaper method of simply vaccinating babies against the disease, APTN reported.

“The general death rate and the infant mortality rate both also fell. Thus, before the BCG vaccine trials were begun, the tuberculosis death rate had been reduced by half by marginal improvements in living conditions, and especially by segregating those with active tuberculosis,” wrote Lux, according to APTN.

Although the vaccine ultimately was proven to work—and is still in use today—children died of gastroenteritis and pneumonia during the study period, Lux wrote. Although some medical professionals expressed misgivings about the ethics of such studies, they continued.

“Between October 1933 and 1945, a total of 609 infants were involved in the tests—half given the vaccine, half not,” the Canadian Press reported. “Results were clear: nearly five times as many cases of TB among the non-vaccinated children. But the real lesson from the tests was the connection between dire living conditions and overall health.”

The report went on to elaborate.

“Of the 609 children in the tests, 77 were dead before their first birthday, only four of them from TB,” the Canadian Press wrote. “Both vaccinated and unvaccinated groups had at least twice the non-tuberculosis death rate as the general population.”

This would seem especially cruel in light of the TB scourge that persists today, especially in Inuit communities.

RELATED: Indigenous Peoples Particularly Vulnerable to Surge of TB

Inuit Renew Fight Against Tuberculosis as Cases Increase

Canada Bands Together Against Northern TB Scourge

But the experiments didn’t stop there, Lux told APTN. The TB antibiotic streptomycin was administered to First Nations patients in other trials at Charles Camsell hospital in Edmonton, which has since closed down. In addition, Lux told APTN, doctors surgically removed TB from indigenous patients up until the 1950s and 1960s, long after the practice had been discontinued in the non-indigenous population.

“Do we interpret that surgeons and medical directors thought they were doing right and never questioning the assumption that these people were going to actually spread TB when they actually weren’t?” Lux told APTN. “They could do it and they did it and that is as shocking as any kind of experiment.”


Ear experiments done on Native kids at Kenora residential school

14 different drugs tried on children with ear infections, school nurse’s report shows

By Jody Porter, CBC News
Children on the playground at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora circa 1957. Newly released documents include a report on the Children on the playground at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora circa 1957. Newly released documents include a report on the “experimentation and treatment of ear disease” among 165 students in the 1950s. (The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives)

A local doctor and a school nurse experimented with 14 different drugs to treat “ear troubles” in children at Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School in Kenora, according to a 1954 report obtained by CBC News.

The report, from the Indian and Northern Health Services archive, said that some of the children being treated became deaf.


10 Other Things You Might Not Have Known About 20th-Century Canadian First Nations History

By Sean Kheraj [SOURCE:]

2013-07-17 10.53.17

If there was a weekly prize for active historians in Canada, Ian Mosby would have been last week’s winner. Canadian national news media (including print, radio, television, and web) prominently featured Dr. Mosby’s recently published Histoire Sociale/Social History article, “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952.”

This paper originated from some documents Mosby found at Library and Archives Canada while working on his dissertation. He discovered evidence of a little-known federal government program of nutritional experiments on starving Aboriginal people. Nutrition scientists conducted a series of experiments on malnourished Aboriginal children and adults for a period between 1942 and 1952. The federal government did not seek informed consent from the more than 1,000 residential school children from provinces across the country who were unwittingly included in this biomedical research.

When news of the publication hit Twitter, national news media outlets quickly picked up on the story and profiled Mosby’s work in numerous publications and broadcasts. Here are a few examples:

As the story continued throughout the week, it prompted responses from several public commentators, including major newspaper editorials, the Manitoba’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, the Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and former Prime Minister, Paul Martin:

Unfortunately, this kind of public attention to historical scholarship is rare, in part, because scholarly journals are often inaccessible to the public. The recent notoriety of Ian Mosby’s work has raised the matter of open-access publishing for Canadian historians. Aside from those with institutional and personal subscriptions to such journals, the broader public beyond academia almost never learns about new historical research findings. Thankfully,the editors and publishers of Histoire Sociale/Social History heeded the suggestions of a handful of #Twitterstorians and released Mosby’s article as an open access publication (for a limited time). Given that the American Historical Association just recently made the controversial decision not to support open access for recently completed dissertations, this example of Mosby’s important research is hopefully a reminder that making historical scholarship broadly accessible can serve a greater public good while not undermining the professional interests of scholars.

Since there was so much public interest in twentieth-century history of Aboriginal people in Canada last week, I thought I would compile a list of ten open-access scholarly publications that provide insights into this history. Here are ten things you might not have known about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada in the twentieth century:

1. In the 1950s, the federal government relocated Inuit people to experimental colonies in the Arctic archipelago.

Alan R. Marcus. Out in the Cold: The Legacy of Canada’s Inuit Relocation Experiment in the High Arctic. Copenhagen: IWGIA, 1992.

2. In 1933, the National Research Council subjected Aboriginal children of the Qu’Appelle reserve in southern Saskatchewan to experimental trials of BCG vaccines for tuberculosis.

Maureen Lux. “Perfect Subjects: Race, Tuberculosis,and the Qu’Appelle BCG Vaccine Trial” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 15.2 (1998): 277-295.

3. Aboriginal people have fought for Canada in every overseas conflict in the twentieth century.

P. Whitney Lackenbauer with John Moses, R. Scott Sheffield, and Maxime Gohier. A Commemorative History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military Ottawa: National Defence.

4. Throughout the entire twentieth century, Aboriginal people in British Columbia have organized politically for recognition of traditional land rights.

Paul Tennant. “Native Indian Political Organization in British Columbia, 1900-1969: A Response to Internal Colonialism” BC Studies 55 (1982): 3-49.

5. From 1969 to 1971, the federal government conducted “Project Surname” a program to assign second names to Inuit people in the Northwest Territories who traditionally did not have surnames. Prior to this project, the government designated so-called disc numbers to Inuit people for identification and tracking purposes.

Valerie Alia, “Inuit Women and the Politics of Naming in Nunavut” Canadian Woman Studies 14.4 (1994): 11-14.

6. From 1913 to 1931, all levels of government participated in the removal and erasure of nearly every Coast Salish village and Indian reserve in the City of Vancouver.

Jean Barman. “Erasing Indigenous Indigeneity in Vancouver” BC Studies 155 (2007): 3-30.

7. In 1962, the British Columbia government agreed to end enforcing ethnic controls on alcohol sales in the Indian Act, which prohibited the sale of alcohol to Aboriginal people.

Robert A. Campbell. “A “Fantastic Rigmarole”: Deregulating Aboriginal Drinking in British Columbia, 1945-62″ BC Studies 141 (2004): 81-104.

8. During the 1946-48 public inquiry on federal administration of Indian Affairs, the Indian Association of Alberta first argued that treaty rights should be the foundation for Aboriginal citizenship in Canada.

Laurie Meijer Drees. “Citizenship and Treaty Rights: The Indian Association of Alberta and the Canadian Indian Act” Great Plains Quarterly 20.2 (2000): 141-158.

9. In Ontario in the 1950s and 1960s, Noranda Mines operated a sulphuric acid plant on Serpent River First Nation territory that processed uranium from the nearby Elliot Lake mines. The detrimental environmental effects of sulphuric waste from the plant devastated the Aboriginal community in the years since the closure of the plant.

Lianne Leddy. “Interviewing Nookomis and Other Reflections: The Promise of Community Collaboration” Oral History Forum 30 (2010): 1-18.

10. In 1922, Dr. Peter Bryce, Canada’s first chief medical health officer, published The Story of a National Crime, a book that outlined statistical evidence that Canada’s Aboriginal population was being destroyed by tuberculosis and the federal government had the means to stop it. The government ignored Bryce’s warnings and fired him for publishing reports on the tuberculosis crisis.

Adam J. Green. “Telling 1922′s Story of a National Crime: Canada’s First Chief Medical Health Officer and the Aborted Fight for Aboriginal Health Care” Journal of Native Studies 26.2 (2006): 211-228.

If you have other open-access publications to recommend, please post the citations and links in the comments section below.

Sean Kheraj is an assistant professor in the Department of History at York University. He blogs at

Hearings provide first step in healing




Singers and drummers perform during the Truth and Reconciliation hearing at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in June 2013.

Richard Rolke/Morning Star

By Richard Rolke – Vernon Morning Star   June 02, 2013 1:00 AM

John Pierre was a child when life with his parents and siblings splintered. It was never restored. “We’ve never come together as a family,” he said of the lasting influence of the Indian residential school he attended in the 1950s.  “Inside, I’m still crying. I’m still a child.”

Raw emotion was evident as former students shared their experiences at the federal Truth and Reconciliation hearings in Kamloops Wednesday.

“It was such a lonely time,” said Mary Percival of being taken away from her parents at age seven.

“I cried for my mom and dad to tuck me in at night. It was very heart-wrenching. My mother became an alcoholic after we were removed.”

Peter Alec was three years old in 1964.

“I wanted my mom and dad to come and get me but they never did,” he said.

“I felt so empty because I lost so much. I never bonded with my mom and dad. I had no feelings when my mom and dad passed away because I didn’t know them.”

For many of those parents, they knew what awaited their children in residential school as they had also  been forced into those classes long before.

“My mother told me to do as I was told and I wouldn’t get into trouble. I did as I was told and we know what happened,” said one woman.

Sexual abuse was a constant thread among many of the survivors. It was at the hands of teachers, clergy or other students.

In one case, a woman recounted how she was initially strapped by a nun for wetting her bed.

“And then she did things she wasn’t supposed to. She started touching me.”

Punishment was severe for speaking traditional languages although many didn’t know English. Speaking out of turn brought the strap.

Food was often in short supply and even worse quality. Education was often limited to religion.

Self-worth evaporated.

“I was ashamed to be an Indian. I thought, ‘How do you change the colour of your skin?’” said a woman who is now 58 years old.

Eventually, the students reached a certain age and left school, but the trauma remained, particularly when they began to have their own families.

“The way I was treated at residential school was the way I treated my kids. I physically abused them. They got in the way of my drinking. I didn’t want the responsibility,” said one woman.

For many, being separated from their own parents at a young age left them with few examples to draw on as they raised children.

“I never told them I loved them and I couldn’t hug them. We were like army sergeants to our kids,” said a mother of five.

“That’s the way we were taught to be. I will be sorry for the rest of my life.”

And that cycle engulfed the next generation.

“I saw my son screaming at his kids and I told him to stop. He said, ‘Why, you did that to me?’”

For another woman, her experiences warped her relationships with men.

“If I was beaten, if I was molested, it was normal to me,” she said.

But as the survivors spoke Wednesday, most were surrounded by spouses and children. The arrival of grandchildren was often the turning  point to a  brighter future.

“It made me realize I have a heart. I’m not a tin person,” said Leona McKay.

“I have to learn to get over the anger and fears and to be the difference I want to see in the world. It’s time to stop depending on others to make us better. We have to help ourselves.”

Questions still remain as to how governments and churches allowed injustice to occur to children. For some, bonds with religion are broken forever.

But for Alanna Manuel, responsibility must run deeper.

“All of the rest of Canada did not protest for our human rights. No one said, ‘Don’t abuse those children.’ Canada needs to take ownership,” she said. “Canada, you let this happen for hundreds of years and you better fix it. I want you to leave here knowing this isn’t an Indian problem, it’s a Canadian problem.”

Speaker after speaker stressed that their experiences no longer dictate who they are.

“We can tell the stories but my past is my past. I don’t live there anymore. Let’s move forward,” said Ginger Alec.

Members of Vernon’s Trinity United Church observed the proceedings.

“It’s about the wider community acknowledging wider responsibility,” said Rev. Jeff Seaton.

Schools were operated by the United and Catholic churches as well as other denominations.

“I hope people will reflect on the power of religion to do great damage and the power to provide transformation,” said Seaton.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is travelling across the country to learn about what happened at residential schools and to inform all Canadians about the legacy of those institutions.

“I have heard that people will never forget, but we have to stop walking into our future backwards,” said Murray Sinclair, commission chairperson. “The country must understand that its sense of self must have balance with our sense of self.”

The commission will ultimately file a final report, but Sinclair believes that’s only the beginning of the process. He urged everyone in the Tk’emlups Indian Band hall to remain involved.

“You are the ones who will have to pick up the challenge of reconciliation. Reconciliation is about healing and coming to terms with what has happened and to move forward,” he said.

3,000 confirmed Indian residential school deaths

Residential School classColin Perkel, Canadian Press, Feb 2013

At least 3,000 children, including four under the age of 10 found huddled together in frozen embrace, are now known to have died during attendance at Canada’s Indian residential schools, according to new unpublished research. While deaths have long been documented as part of the disgraced residential school system, the findings are the result of the first systematic search of government, school and other records.
“These are actual confirmed numbers,” Alex Maass, research manager with the Missing Children Project, told The Canadian Press from Vancouver. “All of them have primary documentation that indicates that there’s been a death, when it occurred, what the circumstances were.”
The number could rise further as more documents — especially from government archives — come to light. The largest single killer, by far, was disease. For decades starting in about 1910, tuberculosis was a consistent killer — in part because of widespread ignorance over how diseases were spread.
“The schools were a particular breeding ground for (TB),” Maass said. “Dormitories were incubation wards.” The Spanish flu epidemic in 1918-1919 also took a devastating toll on students — and in some cases staff.
For example, in one grim three-month period, the disease killed 20 children at a residential school in Spanish, Ont., the records show. While a statistical analysis has yet to be done, the records examined over the past few years also show children also died of malnutrition or accidents.
Schools consistently burned down, killing students and staff. Drownings or exposure were another cause. In all, about 150,000 First Nations children went through the church-run residential school system, which ran from the 1870s until the 1990s.
In many cases, native kids were forced to attend under a deliberate federal policy of “civilizing” Aboriginal Peoples.Residential-school girls class Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide. Some died fleeing their schools. One heart-breaking incident that drew rare media attention at the time involved the deaths of four boys — two aged 8 and two aged 9 — in early January 1937. A Canadian Press report from Vanderhoof, B.C., describes how the four bodies were found frozen together in slush ice on Fraser Lake, barely a kilometre from home. The “capless and lightly clad” boys had left an Indian school on the south end of the lake “apparently intent on trekking home to the Nautley Reserve,” the article states. A coroner’s inquest later recommended “excessive corporal discipline” of students be “limited.”
The records reveal the number of deaths only fell off dramatically after the 1950s, although some fatalities occurred into the 1970s. “The question I ask myself is: Would I send my child to a private school where there were even a couple of deaths the previous year without looking at it a little bit more closely?” Maass said. “One wouldn’t expect any death rates in private residential schools.” In fact, Maass said, student deaths were so much part of the system, architectural plans for many schools included cemeteries that were laid out in advance of the building. Maass, who has a background in archeology, said researchers had identified 50 burial sites as part of the project. About 500 of the victims remain nameless. Documentation of their deaths was contained in Department of Indian Affairs year-end reports based on information from school principals. The annual death reports were consistently done until 1917, when they abruptly stopped. “It was obviously a policy not to report them,” Maass said.
In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the churches that ran the 140 schools and the Canadian government. A $1.9-billion settlement of the lawsuit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The research — carried out under the auspices of the commission — has involved combing through more than one million government and other records, including nuns’ journal entries. The longer-term goal is to make the information available at national research centre.
[For me, this report is suspicious since we know there are first-person narratives that describe murders of children in these schools…and the numbers are misleading since many of the schools hid records of deaths (murders)… Lara/Trace]