With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Native people had little choice but to bend before a huge tide of immigration that eventually brought millions of new settlers into the western part of the continent. First Nations moved to settled reserves and attempted to make new lives for themselves. While the state's authority over them was exercised primarily through the Indian Affairs branch of the federal government, the state formed a partnership with the Christian churches to implement their policies. Perhaps most notable among these co-operative endeavours was the decision to advance the old civilizing mission through educating Native children. The state intended that education, as delivered by Christian evangelists, would be a powerful tool in the assimilationist program.

Grip cartoonist J.W. Bengough  saw monetary motives and political gain behind the missionary impulse of churches and the

BOODLE FOR THE CHURCH, NEXT!

Grip cartoonist J.W. Bengough saw monetary motives behind the missionary impulse of churches. The caption read" "Premier Abbott, replying to a Methodist Deputation which asked for an appropriation of Public Money for Methodist Missions to the Indians of the North-West, said that the Government were maturing a scheme for granting State Aid to Denominational Missions on a per capita basis. This is what we expect to see shortly. O tempora! O mores!" Abbott was Canada's third prime minister.
Grip, 4 June 1892 (cartoon by J.W. Bengough).
Photo of Sewing Class, Indian Residential School, Resolution, NT, n.d.

Sewing Class, Indian Residential School, Resolution, NT, n.d.

Industrial schools taught female Native students the domestic skills they needed to gain employment in Euro-Canadian society. The limited skill set reflected gender and racial assumptions.
NAC (PA-043181).

In practice, however, the education policies devised in Ottawa and the realities of the schools did not always mesh seamlessly. While many school officials belittled and devalued the worth of Aboriginal culture and heritage in their attempts to assimilate children, others did not. In 1891, for instance, the Reverend E.F. Wilson, an Anglican clergyman who participated in the founding of Shingwauk Indian residential school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, advocated the creation of an Indian legislature and an Indian capital city as the site of a third order of Canadian government. He was outspoken in condemning the assimilationist course of the dominion's Indian policy, asking, "Why should we expect that Indians alone, of all people, should be ready to give up all old customs and traditions and language, and adopt those of the aggressor on their soil."8

Written By

Anthony J. Hall
Professor of Globalization Studies
University of Lethbridge

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