Anglican/Methodist Missions and Schools
It is misnomer to believe
that there were no schools or schooling in Rupert’s Land until the
arrival of the missionaries and priests, the Hudson’s Bay Company had
regulations in place since 1836 that everyone in the post attend divine
services every Sunday, that the women and children be given useful
occupations, and that the fathers were to expose their wives and
children to their mother tongue by speaking it at home, and that they
were to "devote part of his leisure hours to teach the children their
ABC and Catechism together with such further elementary instructions as
time and circumstances may permit."
In the early schools, those established before 1880, there was much
less emphasis on forcing the children to learn English or French, and
more emphasis on ‘Europeanizing’ them. Many of the first teachers either
spoke the Aboriginal languages already, or worked very hard at learning
them. There would seem to have been a different attitude.
In the years after Confederation, the Federal Government of Canada
took on some of the roles the HBC had fulfilled, paying assistance to
the Church Mission Societies who ran the residential schools. When the
treaties were signed between the Government and the Aboriginals, the
Government entered into a parental relationship with them. They promised
to care for them but they did not take care of the people.
The Aboriginals suffered a famine after the buffalo were becoming
extinct. It was during this difficult time that the government made
rules that the children must be sent to residential schools. There was
also a change in how the schools were funded. The policy was changed
from a line-item budget into a per capita budget, and other saving
policies were made. One policy was that the children were to attend
school for half a day, and work the other half. The reason given for the
change was that the children needed to be trained in trades. However, it
seemed that farming was the only trade to which they were exposed. The
change in budget left the schools operating without adequate funding.
One of the first places they cut the budget was in food.
Life in school
Life in the residential school was very different from life at home. It
was standard practice for the children to sleep in large dormitories,
all the girls in one big room, and all the boys in another. They were
kept on a tight schedule, and as the schools were run by missionaries,
religious instruction took up a sizeable portion of the instruction
time. One of the first changes they went through was a haircut and a
change into a uniform.
A routine day began with worship, followed by a breakfast of
porridge, eaten in the huge dining room where everyone was seated on
backless benches pulled up to long tables in rows. The children then
performed their chores, followed by either time in the classroom or time
at work. After a lunch of thin soup, those who had had classes in the
morning went to their work assignments, while those who had worked in
the morning went to the classroom. After the school day, everyone had
more assigned chores. Between chores and supper, or just after lunch,
the students would be given half an hour of free time in the yard. That
would be followed by evening prayers, bath-time, and time for bed.
Altogether, a child might spend two hours in the classroom, and six
hours working. They were instructed in English, both oral and written,
basic arithmetic and other elementary subjects, as well as other
religious instruction, including singing hymns. In some of the better
schools, the best students might be selected to learn to play musical
instruments or receive other one-to-one tutoring.
Much of the emphasis, in Methodist, Anglican and Catholic schools,
was to transform the children into English or French speaking citizens
able to hold a job as farmhands or house servants. For some of the
instructors, the goal was the saving of souls, the Christianizing of the
Anglican/Methodist Missions and Schools
Catholic Missions and Schools
Pilgrimage (Kootenay Plains)