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Reconciliation or racialization? Contemporary discourses about residential schools in the Canadian prairies

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Abstract

The residential school system is one of the darkest examples of Canada's colonial policy. Education about the residential schools is believed to be the path to reconciliation; that is, the restoration of equality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada. While the acquisition of the long-ignored history of residential schools has the potential to centre marginalized perspectives and narratives, knowledge acquisition alone is not necessarily a reconciliatory endeavour. The critical discourse analysis offered in this article reveals how dominant narratives about residential schools, cited by well-meaning educators, re-inscribe harmful colonial subjectivities about Aboriginal peoples. Through a post-structural lens and drawing from interviews conducted across one prairie province, I demonstrate how citing popular, contemporary discourses about residential schools continues to racialize Aboriginal peoples while positioning non-Aboriginal peoples as supportive and historically conscious. Readers are brought to think about how learning about residential schools for reconciliation might be approached as the disruption of subjectivities and the refusal to (re)pathologize Aboriginal peoples. Otherwise, efforts at reconciliation risk re-inscribing the racism that justified residential schools in their inception.

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... Therefore, although it may appear as if Indigenous youth face many of the same challenges as non-Indigenous youth, in fact, Indigenous youth experience pathways into homelessness that are inextricably compounded by the ongoing ramifications of Western colonization, persistent cultural oppression, and intergenerational trauma. Newhouse [7] described the extensive colonial efforts of eradication and forced assimilation efforts as "the Long Assault", including residential school systems, Sixties to Millennium Scoops, forced sterilizations and mass incarceration [3,8,9]. While each subsequent effort to eradicate Indigenous Peoples is more heinous than the next, residential school system alone "accomplished what is today considered cultural genocide against Canada's Indigenous Peoples" [9,10], p. 3. ...
... Newhouse [7] described the extensive colonial efforts of eradication and forced assimilation efforts as "the Long Assault", including residential school systems, Sixties to Millennium Scoops, forced sterilizations and mass incarceration [3,8,9]. While each subsequent effort to eradicate Indigenous Peoples is more heinous than the next, residential school system alone "accomplished what is today considered cultural genocide against Canada's Indigenous Peoples" [9,10], p. 3. ...
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... TRC, 2012TRC, , 2015aTRC, , 2015b, scholarly literature that responds to the commission's efforts (e.g. Corntassel, Chaw-win-is, & T'lakwadzi, 2009;Gebhard, 2017;Simpson, 2014), key educational policy documents (e.g. Association of Canadian Deans of Education, 2010; Government of Alberta, 2016), teaching resources (e.g. ...
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... Survivors of residential schools have criticized past narratives, including those taught in Canadian history classes, for inadequately acknowledging residential school experiences and the ongoing effects on Survivors (Gebhard, 2017;Shay & Wickes, 2017). Outside of education settings, even narratives in scholarly literature diminished the horrors of residential schools, such as starvation and abuse, and tend to portray residential schools as a bygone issue rather than an ongoing one (Gebhard, 2017; Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, n.d.). Kinew's narrative truly acknowledges the horrific experiences of residential schools. ...
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This article provides a review of the memoirThe Reason You Walk by Wab Kinew.
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... 87). Predictably, many participants said they used autobiographical writing to focus on self-awareness (Bernhardt, 2009) and to begin the decentering of settler dominance (Gebhard, 2017;Regan, 2010). A few mentioned making purposeful connections to self-study as a feature of professional development (Davis & Kellinger, 2014), a principle which they incorporated widely in their preservice methods courses. ...
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