Lessons in Race: Curriculum in Indian Residential Schools, 1900–1966
The twin goals of “Christianization” and “civilization” for Aboriginal children were propagated in many features of Indian Residential School life. This article examines one of those features: the curriculum selected and taught to the students. The educational program of Indian Residential Schools was at its foundation focused on a Christianizing mandate. The core textbooks of the schools were Christian readers and workbooks, which varied between the different denominations, yet still uniformly sought to teach children the importance of traditional Christian values and beliefs. Layered into the basic coursework were carefully selected social lessons designed to demonstrate the differences between the white majority and Aboriginal minority, the superiority of the white population, and the importance of Anglo-Canadian state citizenship. These messages were reinforced through the lessons in history books, storybooks, and supplementary reading materials provided in the classroom. The words and images of these publications preyed upon the loneliness and isolation of the student, who straddled a divide between what was “Indian” and what was “white” — a divide between past and present, evil and good, and subject and citizen. This article provides a concentrated empirical analysis of school curriculum to illuminate how oppression was constructed and reinforced in the pedagogy of Indian Residential Schools.