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Invasion and resistance: native perspectives of the Kamloops Indian residential school Haig-Brown Vayro, Celia

Abstract

Few extensive studies of residential schools in Canada exist. Much of the extant literature dealing with Native education is based on materials written by Euro-Canadians with only minimal involvement of the people of whom they write. The few materials available which discuss residential schools usually present information from the perspective of the government or the missionaries whose policies controlled them. The purpose of this paper is to present Native perspectives of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Thirteen interviews with Native people of the central Interior of British Columbia, former students of the school, form the nucleus of the study. Because so little is written of Native people's experiences and because the interior people traditionally have an oral culture, interviewing was deemed the most appropriate research technique. Through the informants' own words, the experiences of leaving home, of arriving at school, of surviving the daily routines of the school, of resisting the oppressive structure imposed and, finally, of returning home are restructured. Two main concepts, cultural invasion and resistance, are of paramount importance. Informants were selected to represent various time periods of the school's operation. A conscious effort was made to maintain a balance between male and female views, positive and negative views and the views of students who attended for longer and shorter time spans. In addition, representatives from a number of different Shuswap bands and from bands outside the Shuswap Nation were selected. Efforts were also made to ensure Native participation in data analysis and interpretation. Background information on the three groups involved with the school--the Shuswap, the missionaries and the governments--was obtained from various archives and libraries. The most outstanding feature which is revealed by this study is the extent and complexity of the resistance movement which the students and their families developed against the invasive presence of the residential school. The struggles for power and control within the school may be seen as a microcosm of the on-going stuggle of Native people with the Euro-Canadian presence in this country. The need to develop a model different from the hierarchical one which church, state and academics too frequently have imposed upon Native people--one based on authentic dialogue--is shown. Implications for further research, particularly of a qualitative nature, are numerous. From specific aspects of culture such as arranged marriages and language retention to more general comparisons of the Kamloops Indian Residential School with other residential schools or of the effects of integration into public schooling with residential school, many possibilities are raised. Ultimately emerges a picture of strong individuals and strong culture growing, adapting and surviving.

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