The Representation of Residential Schools in the Newspapers
During the First World War, Canadian newspapers regularly reported on the Indian residential schools, but their accounts often proved to be very far from the reality. They bore witness to the enormous progress made to distance the “savages” from “their barbaric ways” as quickly as possible.
The newspapers reported on the academic subjects – language, reading, writing and arithmetic – and highlighted the Christian education the children were given and the obligation of former students to set “a good example by leading a Christian life.” The newspapers wrote of the “good manners” the children were taught and of everything that contributed to turning each child into a future “good and useful citizen.” The children were even said to enjoy learning. The newspapers also reported on the study of the trades: carpentry, blacksmithing, agriculture, housework and painting. Care was taken to specify that the teaching methods used were based on European techniques and not on the artistic tastes of the children’s fathers. The children were commended for being well disciplined and having “a fond respect for order.”
In addition, the facilities were described as being very vast, comfortable and modern. In the article Une œuvre apostolique dans la Sauvagerie (apostolic works among the savages), which appeared in the journal La Liberté (freedom), the schools were described as “lighted by electricity, steam heated and equipped with an entirely modern sewer system. They want for nothing.” There was so much delicious food that the children “most certainly eat for two days, every day.” According to the journal, everyone was in good health and “there are no illnesses.” To sum up, the children in the residential schools were in good hands and the priests and nuns took good care of them!