The issue in the novel “The Marrow Thieves” by Cherie Dimaline that I decided to research are the residential schools that were in Canada. The first residential school opened in 1831. They were government sponsored schools run by the churches with the purpose of converting and educating indigenous youth so that they could be integrated into Canadian society. Residential schools took the lives of approximately 6000 children. Students were removed from their families and separated from their siblings. They were put in an environment where they were isolated from their culture and forbidden to speak their first language. The students were forced to cut their hair, wear uniforms and given new names with the goal to ‘civilize’ them.
Throughout the novel, many of the characters, including Miig and Frenchie mention the residential schools and their impact on the indigenous people. The residential schools exist in the novel’s present as well as its historical past. The more we learn about the new schools being used to extract the bone marrow from the indigenous people the more clear it becomes that these schools are a symbol of the residential schools and Canada’s history of trying to appropriate Indigenous knowledge, while assimilating, and often killing them. Learning more about the original residential schools and how they affected the Indigenous people allows me to further understand how the new marrow-extracting factories/schools affect each character because the two schools have very similar effects and goals with relation to the Indigenous people. Having more knowledge on the residential schools is also beneficial to my understanding of the novel because they are a big part of the Indigenous peoples history and heritage. These are often brought up during “story” where Miig describes how the world came to being in the state it is today.
In the novel the residential schools represent the only way to survive and move forward in the eyes of those who run them, while the Indigenous characters see the schools as symbols of the government’s unwillingness to look at the whole problem and its tendency to instead find a quick fix at the expense of a vulnerable population.
The first source I used is from the Canadian Encyclopedia which is a free online resource which offers the largest collection of authored, accurate and continually updated articles focused on Canada’s history and culture. This source also reliable because the author is an expert on the field he was writing about as he is a History professor and the Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations at the University of Saskatchewan, he has also written multiple books about Residential schools and Indian-White relations.
Miller, J.R.. "Residential Schools in Canada". The Canadian Encyclopedia, 10 October 2019, Historica Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residential-schools.
The second source I used is about the Residential School System from the indigenous foundation. This source is reliable because the website which the information was published on is an information resource on key topics relating to the history, politics, and cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada. This website was developed to support students in their studies, and to provide instructors, researchers and the broader public with a place to begin exploring topics that relate to Aboriginal peoples, cultures, and histories. As well, the website was developed by the First Nations Studies Program and is affiliated to the University of British Columbia,which is where it was developed.
Hanson, Erin. “The Residential School System.” Indigenousfoundations, indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/the_residential_school_system/.