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Damaged Children and Broken Spirits: An Examination of Attitudes of Anisinābēk Elders to Acts of Violence Among Anisinābēk Youth in Saskatchewan

by Cote, Helen

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis arises out of a participant-observational study of narrative histories of people's experiences in Catholic residential schools in Saskatchewan. All the Elders interviewed are First Nations Anisinābēl people, most of whom live on five reserves north-west of Yorkton. All are recognized Elders2. The Elders have the common experience of having had at least one youth (or a young relative between the ages of ten to twenty-five years old) in their immediate families commit one of these acts of violence: murder, manslaughter, infanticide, or suicide. The Elders also had the shared personal experiences of being in residential schools.

One research objective was to evaluate the influence of historical residential school experience upon subsequent attitudes to violence by youth in their family units. I formulated the study as an empirical test for a number of reasons: i) to examine a principal conclusion of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996) that documented the high rate of suicide among Aboriginal youth is a consequence of psycho-social dysfunction arising out of the residential school experience; ii) to review government policies of colonalization that led to personal abuse of Aboriginal youth in parochial residential schools, abuses that have contributed to lasting social problems for Aboriginal peoples; and iii) to study the healing movement. A Government policy lead to personal abuse that lead to a social problem.

The common theme that emerges out of the collective experiences of Elders is the common history of abuse suffered by Aboriginal students at parochial residential schools, the wholesale destruction of the Aboriginal family unit, and "social dysfunction" within the Aboriginal community caused by church and state for ideological and political objectives. My argument focuses on genocide and not justice issues, and it is framed by my own experiences as an Aboriginal woman who survived residential school.

1 Anisinābē means a beautiful people who are Saulteaux speaking people living in Saskatchewan whose ancestors signed Treaty Four.

2 All are recognized Elders in my mind. In my culture if you as a person, in this case myself, consider some person as an expert or as an Elder, who is to argue with me and say my opinion does not count. For example I chose a woman from my tribe and my clan to give me the correct spellings to the Saulteaux words I use in my thesis. In my culture you do not name yourself as an Elder, other people do that. Some Elders get widely known by many people, others are known as Elders in their immediate clans and tribes. Therefore in my thesis, they are Elders in my eyes because they have experiential wisdom.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Schissel, Bernard

School:University of Saskatchewan

School Location:Canada - Saskatchewan

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:genocide oppression national residential schools assimilation

ISBN:

Date of Publication:09/29/2008

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