September 26, 2022 —
This text by Sean Carleton is republished from The Dialog beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the unique article.
In mild of the Reality and Reconciliation Fee (TRC), many Canadians are coming to phrases with Canada’s historical past of education and settler colonialism.
The TRC’s findings, together with revelations about finding unmarked graves at many former residential faculty websites and the latest conclusion of the Indian Day Faculties settlement declare deadline, have challenged Canadians to confront a tough reality: their authorities, in partnership with numerous church buildings, devised, deployed and defended genocidal faculty programs for Indigenous Peoples for greater than a century.
Indian Residential Faculties and Indian Day Faculties, nonetheless, haven’t been the one sorts of education complicit in colonialism.
The TRC pressured that we should have reality earlier than reconciliation. A part of the “advanced reality” is knowing that public education has additionally performed an essential position in settler colonialism in Canada.
Constructing a capitalist settler society
In my new e book, Classes in Legitimacy: Colonialism, Capitalism, and the Rise of State Education in British Columbia, I look at how numerous sorts of education (day and residential colleges, sure, but in addition public colleges) supported the creation of a capitalist settler society in Canada’s westernmost province between 1849 and 1930.
I present how separate, although typically overlapping, sorts of education for Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous communities imparted comparable “classes in legitimacy” — the formal and casual teachings that justified colonialism and normalized the unequal social relations of settler capitalism.
Faculties served as laboratories for studying colonial legitimacy and coaching college students to contribute to the capitalist economic system in British Columbia, all through Canada and throughout the British Empire.
There are a selection of the way during which public education, along with day and residential education, was implicated.
Land and taxes
In British Columbia, public education was largely paid for by dispossessing Indigenous Peoples of their land.
Within the 1850s, Britain merely asserted sovereignty over what grew to become the colony of British Columbia. Then, the province of British Columbia refused to signal treaties with Indigenous Nations.
Consequently, a lot of British Columbia’s land base was — and stays — stolen, unceded land. In the course of the early interval of colonial settlement, and in an effort to draw and retain colonists and their households, state officers usually reserved “free” plots of land for use for the development of colleges.
Property taxes have been then launched to assist pay for growing education prices.
Thus, stolen Indigenous land underwrote the enlargement and upkeep of the general public faculty system in British Columbia, as elsewhere.
Many faculty officers in British Columbia moved between completely different academic spheres. Residential faculty principals sat on public faculty boards and their college students grew to become academics in day and residential colleges. Public faculty graduates additionally taught in day and residential colleges.
Israel Wooden Powell, a health care provider and early public faculty advocate in 1860s Victoria, served as the primary Superintendent of Indian Affairs for British Columbia within the 1870s and Eighties. Powell used his place to foyer the Division of Indian Affairs (DIA) to create new Indian Day Faculties and Indian Residential Faculties within the province.
Later, within the early 1900s, R.H. Cairns served as a public faculty instructor, principal of the Coqualeetza Indian Residential College, after which because the DIA’s faculty inspector for British Columbia.
Comparable schooling supplies
Although day, residential, and public colleges have been alleged to be separate types of schooling, they largely shared the identical academic supplies.
Within the Eighteen Nineties, the DIA instructed day and residential colleges to undertake and observe the native provincial public faculty curriculum. This included assigning historical past and social research textbooks that disparaged Indigenous Peoples and folks of color by racist representations — and it normalized colonialism and racism as “commonsense.”
Many college students in residential colleges, nonetheless, solely acquired tutorial instruction for half the day, with the opposite half being reserved for performing handbook labour for the varsity.
Consequently, by the Nineteen Twenties the overwhelming majority of Indigenous college students by no means superior greater than Grade 1 or 2. This is the reason some historians, constructing on Survivor testimony and Indigenous information, have argued that full assimilation into mainstream settler society was by no means the aim of coverage makers.
As an alternative, Indigenous college students in British Columbia, as elsewhere, have been educated for inequality.
Indigenous college students in public colleges
Lastly, many Indigenous youngsters and youth attended public colleges in British Columbia from the 1840s by to the Nineteen Forties and Fifties when integration grew to become an official coverage.
My analysis reveals that Indigenous college students, like these (within the lead picture) on the South Fort George College in 1911, close to Prince George, B.C., persistently attended public colleges in higher numbers than beforehand thought.
Many Indigenous dad and mom advocated for his or her youngsters to have the appropriate to attend public colleges (as a substitute of day or residential colleges). Some settler dad and mom and provincial and federal authorities officers authorized and at occasions even defended this follow for numerous causes, together with to maintain sure colleges open all through the province.
The hyperlinks between public education and settler colonialism thus want extra crucial consideration.
The Indian Residential College and Indian Day College programs have now ended. However public education continues to assist settler colonialism and nation constructing, as some educators have identified.
Decolonizing schooling in the present day
Certainly, the core goal of state education — to coach youngsters and youth in methods that can put together them to contribute to and thus maintain an ever-evolving capitalist settler society — stays little modified from the mid-to-late 1800s.
It’s true that some academics in the present day are working arduous to Indigenize and decolonize their school rooms to confront the racism embedded in academic buildings and practices — or need to — although extra coverage assist is crucial. In B.C., some Indigenous Nations are taking up management of native colleges, however a lot work stays.
As Canada marks a second Nationwide Day for Reality and Reconciliation, I hope that a greater understanding of the connection between public education and settler colonialism might help spark new questions on how one can decolonize and rework schooling in the present day.
Sean Carleton, Assistant Professor, Departments of Historical past and Indigenous Research, College of Manitoba