The impact of residential schools on the Cree has left scars that span generations. Dr. George Blacksmith’s doctoral thesis examining the impact on three generations from this dark period in history has been recently published. The results of the study shed light on how things were handled as well as ways to move forward.
“The residential-school traumas continue to reverberate and generate harm throughout the Cree community,” wrote Blacksmith in the abstract of the thesis. The main goal of the study was to find out how the legacy of residential schools affected the lives of the survivors, how it made a social and cultural impact, what can we learn from the experience, and what is the role of education in the healing process.
The study focuses on survivors and their families from the Cree communities of Mistissini, Oujé-Bougoumou and Waswanipi. Stories were gathered from 34 individuals to paint a picture of the struggles that emerged from the trauma of residential schools.
The main finding from the study highlights the devastating effect on the culture of Cree youths educated in residential schools. Blacksmith’s study emphasized the need to reintegrate Cree culture, history and social structure, as well as the history of residential schools and the growth of industrial development into the curriculum to ensure the wounds of the past will heal.