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Hare and Anderson (2010) interviewed Indigenous parents to explore their thoughts and feelings about the transition of their children from home to early childhood centers. The authors noted that many parents felt tension, due to the history of residential schools and the ‘sixties scoop’ (in the 1960’s many Aboriginal children were taken from their homes without consent and placed into the child welfare system), and how this has had an intergenerational impact on the parents and their children entering early childhood centers today. This tension points to the need for early childhood educators to understand the history of residential schools and the sixties scoop in Canada in order to support Aboriginal families entering early childhood centers.

Residential Schools in Saskatchewan

Education was valued by Aboriginal chiefs and Elders, so much so that they insisted on education being a part of the treaties that were signed.  Church organized schools were already running in the 1870's to try to assimilate Aboriginal children into Western culture but were failing due to low or sporadic attendance. The Canadian government established the Indian Act in 1876, which established control over the lives of Aboriginal people and restricted their movements, limiting them to reservations.  In 1879, Nicholas Flood Davin (Regina, Saskatchewan) wrote a report on Industrialized Schools for Indians and Half Breeds (Davin Report) with a number of recommendations on how the American boarding school model, where children were separated from their families, could be implemented in Canada (Niessen, 2017).

Children were taken from their families by the Indian Agent and brought to the Residential School to learn tasks such as sewing and farming. Children were not allowed to return home on the weekends, and had to stay at school. Some children were allowed to visit home once a year, while others had to wait longer.  Parents were not allowed to see or visit their children while they attended Residential School (TRC, 2015).

The Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School, LeBrett, Saskatchewan 1884

(Image Source: Library and Archives Canada PA-182246)

Once at the Residential School, children's clothes were taken away, their hair was cut short and they were given new names.  At some Residential schools they were not even given a name, and instead were given a number.  Many children were verbally abused, physically abused, and sexually abused. Many died from a lack of medical care.  A recorded 3,201 children died while attending residential schools, however the number is estimated to be much higher (TRC, 2015).

Thomas Moore before and after his entrance into the Regina Indian Residential School, 1874 (Library and Archives Canada/NL-022474)

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Watch these videos to learn more about the Residential School Experience

Video - Death at Residential Schools

Video - Educating our Youth - Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

For more information about Residential schools in Canada please visit:

History of Sixties Scoop in Canada

For more information about the 'Sixties Scoop' in Canada please visit:


Hare, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Transitions to early childhood education and care for indigenous children and families in Canada: Historical and social realities. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 35(2), 19–27.

Niessen, S. (2017). Shattering the Silence. Retrieved from:

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). (2015). Retrieved from:

University of Saskatchewan Archives. (2008). Our Legacy. Retrieved from

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