The Cree Residential School at La Tuque, Québec


On rising in the morning, Cree boarding school children learn a whole new set of behaviors.


Reading too, involves new subject matter....


along with classroom participation.....


and a pictorial introduction to southern farm life.


Afternoon includes knitting lessons...


and hair styling....


followed by meals in the dining room.


In the evening, there is time for socializing...


followed by evening prayers.


Boys may take in an afternoon game of hockey in the gym.....


or play in the snow.


As the months go by, home and family seem farther and farther away.


Prolonged residential school experience not only severely limited the ability of Cree youths to participate in the subsistence and social life of their parents and kin. It also promoted assimilationist goals that actively denigrated their language and culture. Hugh Brody, a British anthropologist with years of experience in Arctic and Subarctic Canada, has described this devaluation of indigenous Canadians with particular succinctness:

[We regard] the native person [as] at the very edge of, or just beyond, the world of culture....People in that condition do not know what is best for them (they cannot understand progress) and can only learn by acquiring religion, schooling, housing, money, modern conveniences, jobs. As these are supposed to be the very hallmarks of culture, of civilization, and as they are the indices by which we measure progress; then if the people do not have them, and do not get them, they cannot progess.

This photographic collection offers a brief glimpse into the northern world of the Québec Crees in the mid-1960s -- too little to effectively illustrate the impact of resource development and education on their lives and those of generations to come. But together with the commentary by Hugh Brody, they do raise an important question regarding the relationship between Euro-North American society, its indigenous people, and the utilization of nature -- an issue that was to be raised far more forcefully several years later when the Québec government decided to construct the largest hyrdoelectric complex ever attempted on lands occupied by the Crees.