The Government Abuse of Aboriginal Children 1—Mortality in the Residential Schools

Posted on March 26, 2011


Aboriginal children in Canada (and the USA as well) have been abused by the government almost from the beginning.  Residential schools are my first example.

Children were removed from their parents, from loving home environments, and placed in the care of people who were more interested in recruitment and in their own agendas than in the safety and care of their wards.

A question I have always asked my students when opening the discussion of Indian residential schools is, “What is the acceptable death rate at the school your child attends?”

The answer of course is zero.

My question is relevant because the people who managed the Indian residential school system had a different set of standards.

Deaths and illness were rampant in the residential schools.  In the early part of the twentieth century, what death statistics are available suggest a mortality rate at these schools ranging from about 17% to as high as 84% of the students.

For comparison, a soldier on either side in the US civil war, a war notorious for its brutality and unheard of casualties in battle, had an approximately 10% chance of dying from combat or disease.  Not folly enough.

On D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, 10 thousand soldiers died of the 630 thousand who landed that day.  Ten days of D-Days is about 17%, but a soldier would have to repeat the experience every day for 7 and a half weeks to achieve an 84% chance of dying.  Not folly enough.

In the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, the British soldiers suffered something like 17 to 18% casualties.  Not folly enough.  They would have had to rerun the Charge another three or four times to achieve casualties equivalent to the worst Indian residential schools.

A revolver puts it proper perspective.

The low-end mortality for Indian residential schools, 17%, is approximately equal to playing Russian roulette with one bullet in your six shooter.  The high-end mortality, 84%, is approximately equal to playing Russian roulette with five bullets.

In the fictional universe of Harry Potter and Hogwarts, the school has a sorting hat to place new recruits into one of four competing houses.  If one had such a magic sorting hat in the dark reality of the residential schools, it would probably be used to determine which little Aboriginal students would survive the experience.

I suggest that for the government and for the churches to recruit students to residential schools with death rates higher than war amounts to egregious abuse, perhaps murder.

And they did continue to do so.  They may have even become more aggressive about recruitment.  Funding was dependent on student numbers, after all, and students who were unfortunately dead had to be replaced to keep funding levels constant.

So they kept on feeding Aboriginal children into the death machine.

Welcome to residential school, little girl, little boy.  Put on the hat.  Let’s see whether you have a graduation or a graveyard in your future.