The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Canada's Indigenous Schools

Today, I am briefly writing about a very horrible historical series of events that caused significant hurt, harm, and trauma for many of the indigenous people of Canada.  I write about it in part because my friend, AC, mentioned in the comments a few days ago, the Pope's visit and apology to the Canadian people for the role that the Roman Catholic Church had within this historically horrible event.  

Unfortunately, many in the U.S. are unaware of this horrible series of events in Canadian history.  I would suspect that even amongst folks who live in border states to Canada, knowledge of this history in most is still rather scant.  I also suspect my own knowledge of the full travesty of this history is limited at best, but I may have what would be perhaps a bit of an above average knowledge of the events compared to a typical U.S. citizen.  

In Canadian History, the development of the Indian Residential School System occurred during the late 1800s and was a network of boarding schools for the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Attendance was conscripted and mandatory from the late 1890s through the late 1940s, and I believe the schools remained present for many more decades and were then "voluntary" up until their closure.  I believe most of these schools were shut down by what I believe was the late 1960s, although I also believe a small number of these schools remained active up until the late 1990s. These boarding schools were funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by a variety of different Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Churches of the region. The school system very unfortunately was created specifically with the ill-conceived and profoundly inappropriate ideas and goals to purposefully ISOLATE Indigenous children from their indigenous culture, their indigenous religions, and very often even their own family in an horrific and abusive fashion under the "guise" of working to "assimilate" these children into the dominant Canadian Culture (basically, Caucasian European-Origin Culture).  Approximately 150,000 indigenous children were removed from their families and placed in these schools across the entire nation of Canada during the time of their existence.  Even more horrific, there is significant evidence of many, many cases of severe abuse (of several forms)  that were experienced by children at these schools.  And, there are also many known deaths of children that occurred while in these schools as well.  Different sources estimate the total number of deaths to be somewhere between 3,000 and 30,000, although the large variance in ranges reported suggests that much is still unknown about these historic tragedies. 

My friend, AC, commented about how the Pope had recently visited Canada to offer apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the above horrors.  I was glad, but not surprised that Pope Francis would offer such an apology.  The goals of the schools, and the many and varied abuses that were experienced in these schools was and is wholly against the actual FAITH of Roman Catholicism, and Pope Francis was very correct in offering the apology he did.  

There is apparently considerable debate in Canada on whether Pope Francis's apology was sufficient or insufficient in this instance.  And, I truthfully, cannot offer a meaningful opinion on whether the apology was sufficent or not.  I believe that will be up to the indigenous people of Canada, the whole of the Canadian citizenry, and in reality, history.... to decide.  

The one thing I can and do believe though... is that faith is a very different "beast" from the institution of that faith.  The FAITH of my Roman Catholic Faith is and remains as strong, deep, and meaningful to me as ever.  And, sometimes this causes consternation to arise in some of my friends and acquaintances.  My faith is beyond the PEOPLE who are part of the institution of my faith.  In ANY human institution, be it a church, a school, a governmental body, or something else.... it is an institution that is run by HUMANS.  And, in all human groupings, there are folks who work to try to do good, and folks who may try to do bad.  

So, in regards to the Roman Catholic Faith.... we all know there have been a SIZABLE number of people who have done horrible, disreputable, criminal, and horrific things under the FALSE GUISE of their doing these horrors as a part of their Roman Catholic Faith.  The Pope's apology was important and valuable to try to help in the healing process because even though the actions and abuse were NOT CATHOLIC, some of these actions occurred by criminally horrible people who did their abuse while inaccurately proclaiming it to be Catholic in origin.  But, in a similar vein, there are sizable numbers of people who are Teachers, or Government workers, or Librarians, or leaders in other faiths.... who have also done horrible, disreputable, criminal, and horrific things.... in these cases under the FALSE GUISE of their doing these horrors as part of their teaching, their government work, their library service or whatever their leadership role is/was.  

There is NO WAY to excuse the criminal, bigoted, damaging behaviors of individuals who do dastardly things.  But, the deeds of the individuals DO NOT criminalize the institutions they may have unfortunately associated with.  

So, to conclude this portion..... Yes, there were horrific wrong doings by a variety of people in the Indigenous Residential School System..... and some of these horrific wrong doings were conducted by folks proclaiming their actions (wrongly) were a part of their Roman Catholic Faith.  But... these actions by these individuals ARE NOT Catholic, and in fact those actions are the opposite of what it means to be a Roman Catholic.   In a similar vein, there were horrific wrong doings by a variety of Canadian Government Officials in the Indigenous Residential School System.... and some of these horrific wrong doings were conducted by folks proclaiming their actions (wrongly) were part of their Canadian Government's Policy.  But.... these actions of abuse by these individuals ARE NOT the Canadian Government, and are the opposite of what it means to be a part of that government today.

The above is at best, a very limited, and rough, and incomplete essay of this situation.  If people are interested and pose questions, I will try to elaborate my point more, if desired.

* * * * *

Ran 10.2 miles (~16.5 km) this morning in the rain.  It felt refreshing, and it was pleasant to not have excess sun exposure.

* * * * * 

 PCS - 7.... the cravings are ratcheting up a bit again.  I am feeling a sense of frustration about trying to continue to refrain from smoking my pipes and pipe tobaccos.  It is in this range where I feel most susceptible of  simply "throwing in the towel".... and just fully returning to smoking my pipes at will. 



Blogger Unknown said...

Professor, would it be fair to say that it is most sound to think of the Church as a body? Sure, there's a head and a brain, but without all ten toes the head and brain will find themselves quite limited. Every individual has an invaluable place in the body.

Furthermore, that body isn't just a bunch of screw-ups on the earth. It consists of souls in Heaven, purified. And it consists of souls in Purgatory, becoming purified. And it consists of souls on Earth, who are united with the souls in Heaven and Purgatory. The one body of the Church thus exists beyond space and time, into eternity. And every individual member is part of that, and can experience the unity of the body as he chooses and is able.

Which is to say that you aren't REALLY a "lone wolf" as a pipe smoker. With your faith you are united with many, many fellow pipe smokers who have completed their earthly journeys. If you ever find yourself feeling that "throwing in the towel" would be a defeat, maybe you can mix up the metaphor and think of it as "raising a white flag" and surrendering, accepting your place in the body of pipe smokers present and past -- recognizing with humility and joy that you are who and what you are, and that, at least for you, trying to forget your heritage and live as a not-pipe-smoker is a bit like trying to force an Inuit youngster to forget his heritage and act like a proper British public school boy.

Any progress on the birdbath elevation? That sounded like it should be a really nice upgrade when it's done. And I'm glad you are able to run in the rain and apparently not feel the need to worry overmuch about slipping and falling. Well done, sir!

Thursday, 28 July, 2022  
Blogger Margaret said...

I agree that we must separate the faith from the people (or some of them) who profess to follow it yet do so imperfectly or even harmfully. We're seeing that here with our evangelicals who have strayed SO far from the ideals and acts of Jesus Christ. Did we have some of those schools in the U.S. also? This was a fascinating read. In my Book Club we've had a couple books that were set in Indian schools. Horrible and damaging environment.

Thursday, 28 July, 2022  
Blogger Forsythia said...

We had schools like this in the United States. One of the most famous was in Carlisle, PA. Watched a program on PBS in which members of a tribe visited another such school to bring the bones of deceased children home for reburial.

Thursday, 28 July, 2022  
Blogger PipeTobacco said...

Yes! I watched the PBS documentary on that too!

I am excited you are making your blog into a book and happy you will return to blogging afterwards! You changed back to using Forsythia too.

Thursday, 28 July, 2022  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I’d say that you know as much as this Canadian does. I do know that it was an ugly and terrible policy and often a horrific implementation of it. The Doctrine of Discovery did not help at all.

I found it interesting that you categorized your faith as specifically Roman Catholic and not Christian.

Friday, 29 July, 2022  

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