CHAPTER TWO: RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL

ADVISORY: Some of the videos on this website contain very sensitive subject matter and may trigger negative memories for survivors and their families. We advise people to use discretion when viewing or showing them.

2.1 CAR TOUR OF PELICAN INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SITE

Garnet Angeconeb attended Pelican Indian Residential School from age seven to twelve — 1963 to 1969. The original residential school was unceremoniously torn down in 1978. The site is now home to a high school for Anishnaabe students from northern First Nations communities. In this segment, Garnet shares his feelings about the physical place as he tours the site in 2011.

2.2 ANISHNAABE PRAYER AT FORMER RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SITE

Garnet attended Pelican Indian Residential School for six years — from September of 1963 to June of 1969 — from age 7 to 12. Over those six years he was abused — physically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually. The school was torn down in 1978. In its place is a stylized teepee; now a sacred site. Before we embarked on our interviews at the site of the former residential school, Garnet conducted this prayer under the teepee.

2.3 CHILDREN FORCED TO ATTEND RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL

In the late 1800’s, the Canadian government made it mandatory for all Aboriginal children under the age of 16 to attend residential school.  The idea was that the only way to assimilate them (which was official government policy at that point) was to separate the children from their parents and to forbid them from speaking their own language. Although some children were allowed to return to their families at Christmas, many did not. Others went home only in the summertime, while some children didn’t go home for many years. There are tragic stories of children who didn’t see their families for up to 10 years (See Links section on this website). Other students went missing and have never been found. In this video, Garnet talks about how the Residential School policy affected children and families at the center of it.

2.4 EARLY DAYS AT RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL

In this video, Garnet talks about his initial impressions of Pelican Indian Residential School. When he first went to the school in September of 1963, he was seven years old. He was there for six years. Here, he describes the feeling of leaving his loving family to enter an institution where he felt no one cared about him. This segment was recorded on the site of the old school.

2.5 CHURCH LIFE AT RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL

Various Christian denominations ran the Indian Residential Schools in Canada, on behalf of the Government of Canada. The government paid the churches a certain amount of money each year, based on the number of students attending. Many reports from that era indicated that the funds were never sufficient to keep the students properly fed, clothed, and cared for. The school Garnet attended, Pelican Indian Residential School, was run by the Anglican Church. In this video segment, Garnet describes the role of the Church in the daily lives of Aboriginal students.

2.6 ABUSE BEGINS AT RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL

Note: The material in this video is sensitive and should be viewed with caution.

In this segment Garnet describes how he lived in fear at his new home, the Pelican Indian Residential School. As a seven-year-old boy, away from his parents for the first time in his life, he was sexually abused by an older student. It was not an isolated incident, nor was this horrendous and extreme kind of bullying uncommon. The student on student abuse remains a very painful legacy for many survivors of the residential school experience.

2.7 ABUSE BY DORMITORY SUPERVISOR

Note: The material in this video is sensitive and should be viewed with caution.

Garnet was one of many young boys sexually abused by a dormitory supervisor at the Pelican Indian Residential School. Leonard Hands was in charge of about 40 boys every night. A Superior Court in Kenora, Ontario, convicted Hands in 1996 on 19 counts of indecent assault. He was sentenced to four years in prison. He died while living in in a halfway house in 2000. Other victims have come forward since his conviction, claiming that Leonard Hands abused them too.

2.8 RUNAWAY BOYS

Note: The material in this video is sensitive and should be viewed with caution.

Some Aboriginal children ran away from residential school for a multitude of reasons: homesickness; physical, emotional and sexual abuse; hunger; fear. We now know many authorities knew about this, but didn’t widely report it. The literature shows evidence that runaway children from some schools ended up dying of exposure, most were severely punished. Garnet is aware of two brothers who ran away from school in the 1950’s, who were never seen again. In this video segment, Garnet tells us what he witnessed when some boys tried to run away from Pelican Indian Residential School.

2.9 GOOD TEACHER, GOOD MEMORIES

Not all was bad at residential school. Garnet does have some good memories from his six years at Pelican Indian Residential School, including of some of the teachers. In this segment, he tells us about his Grade Two teacher, Miss June Lever.

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