Historic Barn Etchings Tell Tale of Hard-Working Children

Since Canadian Confederation, it was the policy of the Canadian government to provide education to Aboriginal peoples through a system of church-run Residential Schools. The idea was that by separating the children at an early age from their parents’ influence, they might be more easily assimilated into white Canadian society, including the Christian religion. (A very similar fate befell Australian Aboriginal children after 1931.) The Methodist and Presbyterian churches, and the United Church of Canada, explicitly supported the goals of assimilation and Christianization.

Mount Elgin Industrial School, operating near London, Ontario between 1851 and 1946, was one such institution. Apart from attending school itself, the native children had to work day and night at a nearby barn. Recently, scholars discovered words and drawings all over the barn walls left behind by some of the 1,200 children forced to work there. Described as the “Dead Sea Scrolls” of this dark chapter in Canadian history, the words tell a moving tale of children isolated from friends and families, working very hard under less than ideal circumstances.

On June 20 2012, a monument to the survivors of Canadian residential schools will be unveiled on the site of Mount Elgin Residential School.

Here are some historical photos of Mount Elgin Residential School.

By profession, Matthias Rascher teaches English and History at a High School in northern Bavaria, Germany. In his free time he scours the web for good links and posts the best finds on Twitter.

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