This research paper focuses on the health of the aboriginal people in Canada who attended residential schools. It begins with an introduction that aims at defining who the aboriginal people really are so as to give the reader a better understanding of the topic. It then goes ahead to explain how the residential schools came into existence and why they were considered important especially by the whites and what was begin taught in these schools.
At this juncture, the paper focuses on the main bone of contention, which is the effect of residential schools on the health of the aboriginal people. It explains in a point by point form the problems that these people endured in the schools and how these problems affected their health to present day. It also touches on the immorality that took place in these schools the problems that these children had to persevere. In a nutshell, this paper explains why the survivors from these schools suffered from psychological disorders, and how HIV/AIDS and alcoholism became so rampant among the aboriginal people. Towards the end, this paper discusses the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) and its aim and strategies applied in their attempt to the aid the recovery of the aboriginal people. The conclusion of this paper emphasizes that the effects of residential schools can be seen through the multiple health issues among the Aboriginal people in Canada
The effect of residential schools can be seen through the multiple health issues among the Aboriginal people in Canada
The linguistic definition of the term aboriginal is; any persons, land or members of a race who are indigenous to or were the first to occupy a specified area or territory. This refers to a person who was born in a particular place and is thus a native or inhabitant of that area. They can also be defined as people or ethnic groups who were native to a land before the arrival of a foreign and in most cases dominating culture. These people are the indigenous people of the land and thus can be referred to as the original inhabitants. The foreign dominating culture may adversely affect the self-determination right of the original people. The number of aboriginal people is very rapid growing in country like Canada. Aboriginal people do not share the same health status as the peer thus they are highly represented in negative health statistics (Friderers, 2004).
Brief history about Residential schools
The residential schools were created so as to assimilate the native people. In Canada, there were feelings of distrust between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The aboriginalpeople of London include the status Indians, non-status Indians, Metis and the Inuit people. The residential schools came about due to the strong religion and traditions of the aboriginal people in Canada. The church was considered the only channel to mould the aboriginal children and transform them into good Christians who would be able to respect the values and norms of the settlers. Boarding schools were most preferred since their communities were so small in size and remote; thus they established these boarding schools in urban centers.
These schools consisted of children at the age of five or six who were taken from their homes to these boarding schools for duration of ten months and they were required to maintain the school. They were supposed to read the religious and cultural doctrines and they were strictly forbidden to talk in their native languages. The education till grade 8 was free but anyone who showed signs of academic ability would be allowed to continue but would have to pay tuition fees. The instructors in these schools were not qualified and their methods were authoritarian. The Indian act in 1884 allowed the arrest, detention and transportation of children at school; school attendance was compulsory for children between 7 to 15 years, by 1964, school attendance had risen to 75% (Hawkers, 1989).
This education system led to the abandonment of the Aboriginal culture since the curriculum did not allow the teaching of traditional knowledge. The language and culture of the aboriginal people was degraded their spiritual beliefs destroyed and this led to the abandonment of the traditional culture. These students felt inferior were ashamed of their ancestry since that of the white settlers was considered superior.In a number of these residential schools, students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse by the minority staff and were also supplied with pornographic materials and alcoholic drinks and prostitution.
It is as a result of all these that the aboriginal people were unable to live a balanced and fulfilling life. These people have suffered a lot due to their experiences they had in these schools. This has caused them psychological disorders cause of the trauma and abuse they went through. They lost their cultural identity; the bond between the children and their parents was very poor since the children were separated from their parents and grand-parents at a very tender age. The survivors from the residential schools suffered from trust issues and were unresponsive to their loved ones since they were subject to military-like lives (Paul, 2002).
As a result of the physical and sexual abuse that they underwent in these schools, the aboriginal people suffered from many health issues. Some or most of the contracted sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV &AIDS, psychological disorder and other alcohol related illnesses.
Psychological disorder among the Aboriginal people
This includes post-traumatic stress disorder which can be descried as a lowered level of socio-psychological functioning where ones behavior attributes and characteristics resulting childhood traumatic experiences. It is a form of mental disorder. For Canadian aboriginal people, the evils witnessed in the residential schools made the notion of individual and collective trauma salient. The trauma that was suffered by the individual and community is yet to be resolved. These people went through ethno stress. This takes place when people’s cultural beliefs are disrupted (Elias, 1991).
These people were so confused since they were taught to abstain from sex since marriage and this same people committed sexual acts against them. They were even more confuse about their sexuality since they were exposed to same sex abuse; this is where a man is offended by a fellow man thus he begins to question his masculinity. This was form of psychological torture.
Another cause of this was the aboriginal drinking. There is a linkage between psychological distress and alcohol abuse. Their experience in these residential schools may have contributed to alcohol abuse in attempt to block the distress making the individual to end up an alcoholic.
The aboriginal people are said to suffer from ‘acculturative stress’; this stress occurs when indigenous people accept the goals and values of a dominating community which may be much wider and their attempt to assimilate them. They may however, encounter difficulties such as poverty and lack of skill; in their attempt to assimilate them. For most aboriginal people alcohol consumption has become a way of dealing with psychological distress.
HIV/AIDSamong the Aboriginal people
HIV is a virus leads to AIDS. This virus spread among the aboriginal people, due to the legacy of physical and sexual abuse that took place in the residential schools and the introduction of drug injections. This situation affected even those who did not attend these residential schools. HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C was very rampant among the Aboriginal people. According to research 16% of the aboriginal people who were HIV positive had studied in the residential schools. The others have their relatives, either a parent or grand-parent study in these schools. This means that HIV/AIDS Is both a direct and indirect outcome of the residential schooling.
HIV/AIDS infections were caused also by the drug injections among the aboriginal people in the residential schools. They turned to drugs as an avenue to let out their stress an d could have contributed to the spread of the virus through sharing of needles; too much drinking that could lead wrong judgments and poor decision making (Bonita, 2004).
HIV/AIDS among Aboriginal women
Some of these women were infected since they were wives of the men who used injection drugs thus got infected during unprotected sexual acts.
Aboriginal men who have sex with men (MSM)
This represents a significant percentage of the HIV- infected population among the Aboriginal people. Not all people under this category can be classified as being gay. This contributed a lot to the increase in cases of HIV/AIDS among the aboriginal people, in 1979, the MSM accounted for 30% cases of aboriginal AIDS. The aboriginal gay men were among the first people to be infected with HIV/AIDS (Kelvin, 2009).
Alcohol abuse among the Aboriginal people
Most of the aboriginal people were heavy drinkers and relied on alcohol toa point of becoming addicts this is referred toas alcoholism. At this point one is said to have a drinking problem thus he/she is believed to be sick. This disease is characterized by cravings for alcohol and loss of ability to control the level of intake. This was form of brain damage which made it impossible to control one alcohol intake.Aboriginal people turned to this since they felt oppressed, had abuse related problems both physical and sexual and they had lost self-esteem and cultural identity.
National Aboriginal Health Organization
The National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) is a non- profit organization in Canada whose main aim is to influence and advance the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples. This organization offers training to the aboriginal people such as education, research and knowledge dissemination. It aims at improving and promoting Aboriginal health and understanding the health issues affecting the people. It also aims at fostering the participation of the Aboriginal people in delivery of health care and protection of Aboriginal traditional healing practices.NAHO aims at addressing issues like suicide prevention, midwifery and healthy living; and also to promote healthy choices. This is one of many organizations that have been formed to address the needs and health issues of the aboriginal people (White, 2004).