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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