The long-term effects of Indian Residential Schools: Exploring the contribution of student-to-student abuse
Amy Bombay, Dalhousie University
The Indian Residential School (IRS) Settlement Agreement was signed in 2006 by Aboriginal organizations and the federal government, which included compensation to IRS Survivors through various processes and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that invited former students to disclose and share these experiences. As increasingly more experiences were being shared, it has become apparent that some students were also abused by other students at IRS. Anecdotal reports have suggested that this phenomenon of student-to-student abuse has a number of important implications related to the individual and collective well-being of Survivors and their communities. In response to these informal reports and to the lack of existing evidence on this issue, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation initiated the current exploratory research project aimed at gaining a greater understanding of this issue and its long-term consequences. To do this, qualitative
interviews were conducted with service providers who had worked with IRS Survivors. In general, student-to-student abuse was perceived as being very common in IRS, with emotional and physical abuse in the form of bullying having occurred on a daily basis. Sexual abuse between students was not perceived to be a daily occurrence, but there were exceptions, and it was not perceived as being uncommon. Although the full report addressed a number of additional research questions, the current presentation will report on service provider perceptions related to whether or not those who were victimized by other students exhibit any different or additional features relative to those abused by staff. Differences in levels of trust toward specific groups/types of people were reported, with staff abuse being associated more with mistrust toward religion, people in authoritative positions, and non-Aboriginal people in general. In contrast, student-to-student abuse was linked
more with mistrust toward other Aboriginal people. Being abused by other students was also suggested to have made students more likely to internalize the negative messages received by staff about Aboriginal peoples and culture: being heathen, dirty and savage. Service providers also discussed collective effects of IRSs and student-to-student abuse at the community level, including the perceived link with "lateral violence." Participants indicated that family feuding, bullying and gossiping pervades relationships in some communities, and that lateral violence is a problem that needs to be acknowledged and addressed in order to accelerate individual and community healing.
Vanessa Currie - Traditional Decision Making in Contemporary Child Welfare: Relying on Dane-zaa Laws to Care for and Protect Children and Families
Indigenous decision-making processes are a crucial means of providing support and protection and maintaining wellbeing for aboriginal children and their families. Indigenous decision-making processes are deeply rooted in indigenous beliefs, precedents, customs and experience; they are an integral part of indigenous culture and law. This presentation will describe the efforts of Dane-zaa people in northeastern British Columbia, to bolster the authority and legitimacy of their customary law and decision-making practices in the context of the modern day child welfare system. The presentation will cover the community-based engagement process that the Dane-zaa used to bring their traditional decision-making practices into the child welfare system and highlight the benefits of this cultural approach for families' wellbeing. We will conclude that the increased use of Traditional Decision Making process for the Dane-zaa in the context of child welfare will contribute to strengthening their social and psychological infrastructures, and could be a useful model for other Nations and agencies.
Franco-Métis Resilience: “Comme des tiques, on tough encore comme des vrais diggins”
Stéphane Dandeneau, Université de Montréal
As part of a discussion on the concept of “resilience” during an intergenerational focus group with respondents from St-Laurent, a small Métis community in Southern Manitoba, a participant enthusiastically exclaimed: “Ben… c’t’un diggin!” (Well, he’s a “diggin”!). Following the comment, the entire group burst out laughing and communally agreed that the word “diggin” was their perfect word to refer to a resilient person. In addition to Métis from St-Laurent, we investigated individual and communal perspectives of resilience by interviewing young adults, adults, and elder Métis living in urban and rural areas with key informant interviews, focus groups, and individual interviews. By focusing our discussion on individual and communal ways people have faced and continue to face their challenges, we identified key resilience processes that link three generations of Franco-Métis: poverty, discrimination, identity, and “caméléonage social” (social chameleoning). Through stories and laughter, I wish to share with you our Métis Stories of Resilience.
Discourses on Language: Comparing Language Retention and Suicide Data in Ontario First Nation's Communities
Gerald McKinley, Western University
Drawing on my ongoing research into patterns of First Nations youth suicide in Ontario, this paper explores language as a protective factor against suicide. Contrary to the findings of Chandler and Lalonde in British Columbia, Ontario data provided by the Office of the Chief Coroner demonstrates an inconsistent relationship between suicide rates and language retention in this province. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative data, I explore language within two discourses: language as pride and language as shame (McCarty et al 2006). Comparing the Ontario research to examples from the Native Language Shift and Retention Study, I argue that it is in the differences between these two discourses that resilience is located. This allows for a reframing of
Chandler and Lalonde’s important work in terms of autonomy, as Kirmayer et al. (2007) established. From this position, I argue for a more complex role for language in suicide prevention programming.