Indigenous Perspectives Education Guide

Activity 10Worksheet Stories of Resistance Use this worksheet to support Option 2 of Activity 10, Residential Schools: Historical Perspective , located on page 12 of Historica Canada’s Indigenous Perspectives Education Guide. Most Residential Schools restricted any form of expression that was connected to students’ Indigenous heritage, including but not limited to clothing, toys, languages, dancing, religious practices, and contact with families and communities. Students sometimes found ways to resist oppression by holding onto their identities, customs, and cultures. It was not always possible to resist, and harsh (often corporal) punishments were handed out to those found breaking the rules. Despite this, many Survivors remember the comfort of secretly holding on to their traditions. The following excerpts are from The Survivors Speak: A Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. In each of the stories below, look for instances in which survivors defied their oppressors, fought back, held on to their language, broke the rules, etc. Answer the following questions: • What acts of resistance were common? • How did children find ways to hold onto their cultures? Share your observations in a circle, and discuss as a class. The following excerpts include sensitive material, including references to physical and sexual abuse. Monique Papatie said that at the Amos, Québec, school, students “went to a corner to speak our language, even if we weren’t allowed to do that. We kept our language, the Anishinabemowin language, and I speak it very well today, and this is what I want to teach the children, my mother’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” (53) When she returned to the Qu’Appelle school after being sexually abused by a fellow student the year before, Shirley Brass decided to run away. She did not even bother to unpack her suitcase on the first day at the school. “I took it down to the laundry room […] I hid it there and that night this other girl was supposed to run away with me but everybody was going up to the dorm and I went and I asked her, ‘Are you coming with me?’ And she said, ‘No, I’m staying.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m going.’ So I left, went and got my suitcase and I sneaked out. I went by the lake. I stayed there for I don’t know how long. I walked by the lake and I sneaked through the little village of Lebret, stayed in a ditch. I saw the school truck passing twice and I just stayed there. I never went back. I hiked to—I had an aunt in Gordon’s Reserve so I went there. I had a brother who was living—a half-brother who was living with his grandparents in Gordon’s and he found me and somehow he got word to my mom and dad where I was and they came and got me. My dad wouldn’t send me back to Lebret so I went to school in Norquay, put myself back in Grade Ten.” (133-4) Arthur Ron McKay said he was able to hang on to his language at the Sandy Bay school. “Or else you’d get your ears pulled, your hair or get hit with a ruler. Well anyway, I just kept going and I couldn’t speak my language but then I was speaking to boys in the, ’cause they came from the reserve and they speak my language. We use to speak lots, like behind, behind our supervisors or whatever you call it. That’s why I didn’t lose my language; we always sneak away when I was smaller.” (53)