Letter: Residential schools did not match the horror of being the only Native kid in class

The other side of education in the ‘40s and ‘50s

To the Expositor:

If you think for a moment, if you think it was discriminating to go to a residential school back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, try going to school in a total white society, like a school in Gordon Township or the Town of Gore Bay. Think again. How would you like to go to school where you had to walk to school two or three miles every day through snow, sleet and rain? You still had to go to school no matter the weather. Weather was not discriminating whether you were white, Native and had no running water inside (toilets were outside Johnnys), wood stove for heat and no school buses. Sad to say, but that’s just the way it was back then. But the horror didn’t end there. Now picture yourself sitting in a total white society school and you were the only Native there. You and your brother were all alone and the white society students picked on you every day, calling you names, ‘you dirty Indian,’ ‘wagon burner,’ ‘you black Indian’ and saying ‘go back to the reserve where you came from’ and even the teacher saying you are nothing but a stupid Indian, saying you stink, don’t you take a bath and you were a minority. Just the two of you, just you and your older brother. 

There were fights, fights that would break out pretty much every day from the older children, being as the schools were from Grade 1 to 8, all in one room school houses. The older students always picking on you, making you take your pants off and telling you to show us your black dingee to see if it was different. Then they are beating you up just because you were Native Indian and the older white students taking you out to the wood shed and make you stand there for punishment with your pants down, then laugh at you. This is what you had to go through every day. Even when the students that were driven by their parents to school, the abusive parents would say to me and my brother, they would even call us names, too many ugly words to mention, hateful words, saying ‘you don’t belong here,’ ‘we have to pay taxes to fund you’ and ‘you’re smelling up our school’ and ‘why is it that you Indians have a smell, like the blacks.’ Oh yes, we had one black student. His name was Bunk, his real name was Clyde, never knew his last name and let me tell you, all of this followed me to high school in Gore Bay. It was worst there, so I couldn’t take it anymore. So really, I never got to have a good education. If you think going to a residential school was rough, think again. You residential school students will never know the horror of what we went through. We were very poor, many times no food in our bellies, no school lunch. So, let me tell you residential school students, you didn’t have it all that bad, many of you at least got an education, a warm place to sleep and food to eat. So residential school students think again. There are always two sides to a story.

Lyman Corbiere

M’Chigeeng