Season 1, Bonus Episode

The Shameful Legacy of Indigenous Residential Schools

Indigenous residential schools have a shameful legacy across the world and through several centuries, right up to the present day. They erased native cultures and religions, and aimed to ‘civilize’ indigenous people. And children attending these schools have also endured horrific conditions and abuse.

We look first at the history of indigenous residential schools in the United States. Over 150 years, hundreds of thousands of Native American children resided at these schools and were subject to physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

In Peru, children of the Arakambut were sent to Catholic mission schools and taught Spanish.

In Australia, children as young as 4 years old were placed in dorms, taught menial labor and domestic tasks, and sent to work at 14.

Children of India’s 104 million Adivasis also attended indigenous residential schools. They began during British rule, and continued after Independence, as ashram schools. A 2012 investigation called these ashram schools poorly run and managed, and reports of starvation, ill treatment and inadequate teaching have been widespread.

Time Markers (mins: sec)

  • 0:12 Sally General’s experience at Mush Hole

    2:22 defining ‘indigenous’

    3:47 collaboration with How Did We Not Know That? Podcast

    3:55 promo for How Did We Not Know That?

    4:48 recording from our closets; please donate!

    5:31 Native American boarding schools in the US

    6:43 mission of US boarding schools

    7:06 ‘Kill the Indian, Save the Man’

    8:00 early history of Native American education

    9:38 ‘Indian Residential Schools’ in the 19th-20th centuries

    10:05 erasing Native American identities

    11:30 horrific conditions at the schools

    12:27 the first US boarding school: Carlisle

    13:02 how the US government forced children into schools

    13:45 what happened to children after leaving schools

    14:20 laws allow Native Americans to determine education

    15:10 reckoning or resolution 

    15:36 Department of Interior investigation

    15:50 Lakota children’s remains returned to reservation

    16:48 residential schools in South America

    19:40 Australia boarding schools for indigenous

    20:20 studies on children attending boarding schools

    21:10 boarding schools for Adivasi in India

    21:54 British schools for tribal children in Andaman Islands

    23:12 Ashram schools for tribal children

    23:50 AV Thakkar’s views on tribal education

    25:28 conditions in the Ashram schools

    26:58 news clip on sexual abuse in tribal schools

    28:28 residential schools and resource extraction

    29:20 ‘banking model’ of education

    30:44 education and a consumer society

    31:55 funding from World Bank and UN

    33:20 common threads across regions and history

    33:53 legacy of colonialism on India tribal schools

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How Did We Not Know That

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Reading List

Aikman, Sheila. “Language, literacy and bilingual education: An Amazon people’s strategies for Cultural Maintenance,” International Journal of Educational Development 15 (October) 1995: 411-422.

Callimachi, Rukmini. Lost Lives, Lost Culture: The Forgotten History of Indigenous Boarding Schools. The New York Times. (2021)

Cineas, Fabiola. Reckoning with the Theft of Native American Children. Vox. (2021)

Gupta, M. & Padel, F. The Travesties of India’s Tribal Boarding Schools. SAPIENS (2020).

Gupta, Malvika, and Felix Padel. “Confronting a pedagogy of assimilation: the evolution of large-scale schools for tribal children in India’.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford-online 10.2 (2018): 22-47.

History of American Indian Schools. Wikipedia. (accessed Aug. 1, 2021)

Joseph, T. Who were the first settlers of India? The Hindu (2017).

Karnad, R. The Diverging Paths of Two Young Women Foretell the Fate of a Tribe in India. The New Yorker (2018).

The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

Pember, Mary Annette. Death by Civilization. The Atlantic (2019). 

Smith, A. Indigenous Peoples and Boarding Schools: A Comparative Study. United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2009)

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