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Aboriginal Youth Identity Series: Health and WellnessSeniors Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness

Lesson 2: Health Issues within Residential Schools

Teacher Information:

It has been reported that while residential schools were trying to eradicate Aboriginal cultural traditions, beliefs, and values amongst its students, the schools also served as a breeding ground for many serious illnesses that sometimes went untreated. There are a high number of incidences of deaths and serious illness during the residential school era. Some of the diseases that students were subjected to were tuberculosis, pneumonia, measles, smallpox, and malnutrition.


Students will:

  • Identify key words associated with residential schools
  • Research and report on health issues associated with residential schools
  • Analyze information and evaluate the impacts of residential schools upon the health and wellness of Aboriginal communities
  • Express and interest in Aboriginal health and wellness initiatives
  • Demonstrate respect for Aboriginal culture and traditions

Main Lesson

Distribute the following vocabulary sheet to your students. They will be able to find the definitions by utilizing the information in the Student Zone Glossary.

Residential Schools Vocabulary Worksheet

Cultural Identity:
Residential school:
Industrial school:

The main focus of this assignment is for students to do a research project on the health and wellness issues associated with residential schools. It is suggested that you limit students research to deal primarily with residential schools in Alberta, however they may draw upon information from other provincial residential schools for comparison analysis.

Print out the following health issues on individual strips of paper and randomly distribute to students. Students will focus their research on the health issue they received. For example, if they received SMALLPOX, then they would focus their research project on how the incidence of smallpox within residential schools affected students and their communities. They will want to ask questions such as “what is small pox?,” “how is it generally treated?” “What were the rates of smallpox within a standard residential school?” “What kind of treatment did Aboriginal students receive?” and so forth.


Students may begin their search in the Student Zone section. Other websites you may want to direct them to are:

You should also discuss resources that are available in your school library with the librarian. It is also suggested that students include photographs where necessary to highlight their research report.

It is up to your discretion the marking and content criteria for this assignment.

Note: if possible contact an Aboriginal Friendship Centre or Native Counseling Services of Alberta to see if they can arrange for a residential school survivor to come and speak to your students. This would be a powerful presentation so it is essential that students have some background understanding of residential school issues prior to the presentation.

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