The Lingering Effects of Residential Schools on Indigenous People

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Between the 1830’s and 1980’s, 150,000 Aboriginal children were removed from their homes and forced to attend government-funded religious schools. These schools were formed in order to assimilate them into European culture

Fundamentally, these schools were established as a method of cultural genocide against the Aboriginal people. Indigenous youth were neglected, malnourished, physically and sexually assaulted, and told their culture was sinful. About 3000 children died as a consequence of these school. Some froze to death after escaping, trying to get home to their families. Even though all residential schools were shut down as of 1996, they still cast a large shadow over the lives of Indigenous people today. Trauma experienced by children in residential schools has had a negative outcome on the health of indigenous communities. Unresolved trauma from residential schools perpetuates the suffering of these communities because of the intergenerational trauma that is transmitted through generations. Most of the indigenous people who are affected by residential schools aren’t those who actually attended them. Most were too young to have gone themselves. The unsettled trauma experienced by the generation that resided at residential schools was transferred onto second generations and further on. This is a common phenomenon in Aboriginal communities that are known as intergenerational trauma. “Effects on mental and emotional well-being [linked to residential schools] included mental distress, depression, addictive behaviors and substance misuse, stress, and suicidal behaviors. ”(Wilk Abstract). Aboriginal children who went to these boarding schools passed on their trauma in many ways.

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The main reason being the mental health issues that survivors experience after their freedom. Subsequently, sufferers are unable to fulfill their neutering role as parents and cause their children to have issues because they did not have this kind of role model. Many Indigenous parents are unfit to care for their children and end up being taken away, adding to the issues the children may develop. Manitoba’s child-welfare system reports that almost 90 percent of all children in care are Indigenous (Government of Manitoba 4) First Nations children grow up in families with residential school survivors also commonly experience many issues.

These children are more likely to have mothers who smoke more often and undergo sustained breastfeeding than children that don’t have residential school survivors in their family. The destructive behaviors that those with unresolved trauma exhibit can have many negative effects on their family members. Parents or grandparents with depression, anxiety, with aggressive behavior, thoughts of suicide or homicide, addictive behavior, and substance abuse create an unhealthy living environment for their family members. Generally, people living with survivors who have these issues also end up exhibiting similar behaviors. In order to cope with the trauma that their family member is causing them, they resort to the same kinds of harmful behaviors.

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The Lingering Effects of Residential Schools on Indigenous People. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“The Lingering Effects of Residential Schools on Indigenous People.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
The Lingering Effects of Residential Schools on Indigenous People. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
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