Indian residential schools (IRSs) in Canada subjected thousands of students to horrific experiences and contributed to serious problems for Aboriginal peoples and Canadian society. A model is proposed that uses existing psychological theory and empirical research to explore the possible impacts of IRS experiences. The model identifies four aspects of student experiences that were a direct result of Canadian law or policy and so affected all IRS students: parental loss, institutional care, forced acculturation and acculturation stress, and discrimination/racism. The model also identifies three aspects of student experiences related to inadequate or abusive IRS operations: maltreatment, trauma, and bullying. An exploration of relevant empirical findings is organized within the framework of this model. This model suggests important and not generally understood IRS psychological impacts, including the vulnerability of former students not only to (a) persistent mental disorders but also to (b) complex traumatic reactions arising from impaired relational attachment and developmental maturation, (c) negative cascades of events, and (d) social marginalization resulting from both Canadian societal racism and lack of opportunities to develop or retain Aboriginal languages and cultures. Such psychological difficulties may underlie and contribute to the poor welfare of many Aboriginal children, jeopardized Aboriginal languages and cultures, health problems among Aboriginal peoples, lagging Aboriginal educational and economic success, and the overrepresentation of Aboriginal peoples in the criminal justice system. The present model offers a framework for psychologists to participate in the truth and reconciliation process through research, education, clinical treatment, and advocacy.
The information contained on this website has been sourced by the Australian Indigenous Psychology Education Project (AIPEP) and AIPEP 2. The first AIPEP was funded by the Australian Government Office of Teaching and Learning. AIPEP 2 is part of the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Project, funded by the Million Minds Mission Grant. The views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government Office of Teaching and Learning or the Million Minds Mission Grant.
Several of the images used throughout this website are credited to Chris Lewis