You are here

YA Author Melanie Florence's Visit to Nepean High School

Last week, Nepean High School, Earl of March Secondary School, and Notre Dame High School  were lucky to host guest speaker and YA Author Melanie Florence. Melanie spoke about the history of Canada’s First Nations people and the truth about Residential Schools in Canada.  Her presentation and book Residential Schools: The Devastating Impact on Canada's Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Findings and Call for Action educated us on the lifestyles of various First Nations groups before colonization, the  government's  attempts to force assimilation, and the lasting effects of Residential Schools on Indigenous communities and their culture.

In only 75 minutes, Melanie taught us an amazing amount of information  about Canada’s past, present, and  hopes for the future. The last Residential School in Canada was finally  closed in 1996, but their lasting effect is still  very present in our country today. It is my belief that every  Canadian should take the time to learn about what  happened in the Residential Schools, so we can ensure the  racism and hatred poured into them never exists again.  The following is some of what Melanie taught us last  Thursday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-colonization, First Nations communities across Canada passed on their history and educated their children orally through storytelling. Children in their communities didn’t go to school, but were taught moral lessons as well as how to provide and care for their community by their parents and elders. Children were regarded as the most important part of the group, as they were the future and would be the ones to pass on the history and teachings to the next generation. It is because of this that the government's attempts to force assimilation through targeting children was so catastrophic to First Nations communities. By forcing communities (many nomadic) to move to reserves that were often completely different from the land they had lived on for generations, and then forcing them to give up their children to go to Residential Schools, almost an entire generation lost the opportunity to learn their culture and carry it on. Unable to continue life the way they had for thousands of years, families living on reserves were often impoverished and children as young as 4 and 5 years old were taken from them. In some cases, children were completely cut off from their families for so many years that they did not recognize them when they were finally allowed to return home. When at the schools, siblings were deliberately separated, children’s hair would be chopped off, they were punished for speaking their native language, and they were given numbers to replace their names. Students experienced various forms of mental, physical, and sexual abuse and were told they were worthless because of their race on a daily basis. Children died of abuse, starvation, disease, and from trying to escape. Those who made it out alive were often left deeply ashamed of who they were, and unable to reconnect with their communities

.

 

Entire languages and histories were lost as a result of residential schools. The aftermath includes alcoholism, poverty, loss of culture, and a continued cycle of domestic abuse. All this because society, as we unfortunately see over and over again in history, was scared of different and unable to recognize the beauty in diversity. It is incredibly important that we take the time to acknowledge the mistakes of our past in residential schools, so we may never allow them to happen again.

 

Image: Residential Schools

Residential Schools

The Devastating Impact on Canada's Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Findings and Calls for Action
By Florence, Melanie
Originally published
11/12/2017