First Nations school deaths

An interesting question here.

So, those residential boarding schools in Canada. With graves of kids around them. An important subject because the death of a child is an important subject.

At which point an interesting question. What was the death rate?

No, not did children die – because this is, however shattering, something that happens. But how many children? How many compared to the death rate for children on the reservations (I know, they’re not called that in Canada but you know what I mean)? Even, compared to the death rate in the society more generally at that time?

Two hundred years ago child mortality – and yes, that was much more about under ones than school age children but still – was horrific for everyone. Something largely solved by drains. It’s still horrific in some parts of the world.

It’s Sowell’s question all over again. “Compared to what?”

The death rate at those schools was what and compared to what?

24 thoughts on “First Nations school deaths”

  1. I base some of my suspicion on the unmarked grave side of it. So another compared to question would be: ‘how common was it for unmarked graves?’

  2. Child mortality figures really concern the under fives.

    Although we should all be concerned, to be honest.

  3. Not defending the policy of taking children from their families, but I had the same thought. The article I read also talked about “unsanitary conditions”. Given that indoor plumbing was not too common in the 1890s when one of those schools was opened, was that out of the ordinary? Was it modernised later?

    And the comparison has to be made to the home conditions from which the children were taken, not just of the general population in Canada at the time. I doubt that a First Nations community at the end of the 19th century had any running water or sewerage (and probably didn’t until much more recently), so the schools would probably not have been any worse than home in that respect.

    There was also a point made about “many not returning home”. Perhaps that was because they had learned that there was more to life than hunting seals and freezing to death on an ice flow.

  4. At my Grandma’s funeral 30 years ago her cousin causally mentioned where “her three little ones” were buried with no markings. Stillbirths and pre-toddler mortality was just a fact of life. how quickly people forget.

  5. Actually reservations is used in Canada, but they are different in nature from the American version.
    Being on the ground so to speak this really is not an area to raise your head over the parapet with even the most innocuous of questions…like if this was ‘unknown’ how did so many people already know about it even if it was anecdotal (bodies in the orchard type stories)
    The churches burned down have been on First Nations land which has actually annoyed the First Nations communities as despite the fact they were Catholic Churches people are able to distinguish between their faith and the institution and it’s history
    The women have jumped upon the bandwagon and are trying to ban the upcoming Canada Day celebration as of course we should all be repentant about how evil we are

  6. @Jonathan
    Despite fires breaking out in early hours of morning and traces of accelerants the RCMP have said they don’t want to jump to any conclusions

  7. Steve in Canuckistan

    This isn’t ancient history, these places were in existence until 30 years ago, the last one was closed in 1996. This is living memory for a lot of families.

    Graves were marked, then the headstones were removed, burial grounds erased by the church and the state, probably got a bit embarrassing seeing all those headstones visible from the comandants window.

    Have a quick peek at the wikipedia entry, and the quote from a 1906 official report that had mortality at two to three times the general population.

    These were reeducation and indoctrination camps. Their sole purpose was to destroy a culture. A real culture war with dead bodies not twats arguing on Twitter.

    It is completely understandable that the average Brit is unaware of what happened, but once you are aware of the scale of what was done you should at least have some sort of emotional response.

    The residential school system is an example of what happens when politicians, the establishment and general public get caught up in righteous do-goodery. Roads to hell etc.

    Ah yes, the woke, as BniC highlights, doing exactly the same as the creators of the residential school system did; treating all Indigenous people in Canada as a homogeneous lump to be talked down to and not knowing their own minds. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

  8. regarding the “unmarked graves” comment by Hallowed Be…in the case of the most recent discovery, the graves were marked up until a priest bulldozed the area in the ’60s. And regarding the general discussion of child mortality rates, it’s very hard to find any data for children above the age of 5. Everything seems to focus on infant (under 1) and child (under 5) mortality.

  9. One thing that is always missed in the reporting is that the schools were provided only after the Indians were settled on the reserves AND requested teachers. This is because educational services were a treaty obligation on the Crown.

    As background, of the approximately 150k children that went through the system, about 3,000 sadly died while at the schools. The rate was higher than the surrounding community, but it is unclear if that has been corrected for age cohorts differences between the school population and the community to get to an apples-to-apples comparison.

    Plus, after 1951 (I think), the Indian Act had a clause that said that kids did not have to go to a school if they were receiving an acceptable education at home.

    As a Canadian, I’ve been reading up on this of late. Not just what people’s opinions are, but the source treaty texts and the Indian Act.

    There is a definite narrative that the media is advancing on this topic, in conjunction with the FNs. The actual documents shed some light on how things evolved the way they did.

  10. Pete/canuck steve= yep, removed for aesthetic purposes does rather change the narrative.

    JGH- well yes wasn’t this a consequence of the whole original sin=hell for the unbaptised. A scandal in its own right.

  11. This is stuff that happened over 150 years ago. No one alive today had anything to do with it. We do not have time travel yet, so we can’t fix it.

    Meanwhile Naive Indians receive billions of dollars ever year courtesy of the Tax Payer. Native Indians don’t have pay taxes, they can hunt and fish all years round, the can get any level of education they want for free. We traded their canoes for power boats and high powered rifles …. etc.

    And now to add to that they are no looking for another payday?

    These Indians have never had it so good … their chiefs are the one’s who keep them in poverty. They have not done anything to improve their lot as a people.

    Mr. Harper tried to help by making the band chiefs resonsible for the vast amount of money they get every years. And they also get unlimited free healthcare.

    Guess who pays for all this? White people who get blamed for everything while we fund everything.

    Enough Indians.

  12. may I write this but remember these points. First, the priests and sisters did not break any laws, They followed heroically the dictates of Egerton Ryerson’s educational dictates as okayed by Upper Canada’s Law and later adopted by the Federal Government. They followed as far a possible to teach in one of the official languages. Can you imagine french sisters teaching English speaking to Western Canadians? teaching in buildings built by the Canadian Government who were paid by the same Federal Government. many of the teachers were lay people still alive today.
    They were paid directly by the federal government, They did not nor could not break the federal rules applied to the residential schools. They also had no medical personnel and were dependent upon local hospitals. Who did not have government health care for the longest time and I believe were very reluctant to work without any expectation of payment? As Trudeau has just announced the federal government should have done better.

  13. Steve in Canuckistan says “and the quote from a 1906 official report that had mortality at two to three times the general population.” but in the sentence Steve wrote (unless I misread it), it is made to look like that applies to the residential schools. But it doesn’t. The whole quote is “INDIAN POPULATION of Canada has a mortality rate of more than double that of the whole population, and in some provinces more than three times”

    The real question is how many would have died had they been ON the reservation rather than in the schools.

    Also in the Wikipedia piece, it is interesting to know that many of these residential schools were taken over by “some bands, along with regional and national Indigenous organizations”.

    As an aside, I find it curious “that students were included in several scientific research experiments without their knowledge, their consent or the consent of their parents.” Yet isn’t that the exact thing that went on with the polio vaccine? And isn’t that the exact thing that was recently being argued by Dr. Francis Christian who was suspended by USask? He said that informed consent is required for parents and children for the Wuhan virus vaccine (which is only experimental) as the concept of informed consent is a “sacrosanct principle” before administering “any kind of drug or treatment or intervention.”

  14. There were also the Indian hospitals this these get little coverage compared to the schools.
    Either way highly emotive issue in BC right now and as mentioned some of these schools operated until 1990’s
    I’ve met and talked with people who went to the residential schools for who it is still a fresh scar.

  15. Minors cannot give consent, offering 12 year olds ice cream to get vaccination, without parental or a guardians consent is evil beyond description. The Nuremberg 2 trials must feature gallows, lots of them.

  16. This didn’t happen 200 years ago. The last school was still operating 25 years ago.

    By that time the parents had long realized what was happening and refused to send their children so the RCMP would come to their homes, take the children by force and ship them off, most often the parents having no idea where the kids were and many to never be seen again.

    The documented cases of assault, rape, brutality and murder are lengthy and depraved.

    Compared to what.. you heartless c*nt.

  17. 1. This wasn’t two hundred years ago. Residential schools started up in a big way about 130 years ago.
    2. Wooden markers were common back in the day. Obviously these would not have lasted many decades.

  18. The residential school in Kamloops was built on Indian-native-First Nations-aboriginal-indigenous land. They probably used an existing burial ground for the dead children, and they probably marked them with wooden crosses that are long gone. Some of the 215 bodies reported may be adults. The total number of students to ever attend is given in some reports as 150,000. Compulsory attendance ended in 1948. The most likely cause of death is disease; tuberculosis would have been the worst, but students would also have been vulnerable to Old World diseases like measles and mumps. The Spanish Flu of 1918-20 may well have been a factor, and prior to the development of antibiotics in the 1940s people regularly died from bacterial infections. The local band has actually been pretty careful and responsible in its public statements.

  19. A lot of the hand-wringing is being done by people who judge by today’s knowledge, rather than that of the times.

    Administrators of the times were grappling with the consequences of bringing together large numbers of people, numbers of whom did not have more than elementary education in hygiene. This is in an era in which “modern” armies were still losing more soldiers (young, fit , valuable men) to disease than to enemy action.

    Resources were limited, medicine was limited and the ability to respond to disease outbreaks…. well let’s just say that nobody was flying in planeloads of doctors equipped with antibiotics.

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