SESSION 1.2: Space Stories: Constructions, Meanings, and Effects of Space in Indian Residential Schools of British Columbia

Friederike Nusko, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität LMU Munich

Abstract

The structure stands as if to say:I was just a base for theory To bend the will of children I remind Until I fall.1 Space as a crucial category for atmosphere, power, ideology, and identity is often neglected within the research literature on Indian residential schools (IRS).2 However, I argue that constructions and uses of spaces in IRS reveal bio-political strategies to control and transform First Nations children on the one hand, and, on the other, offer new angles to approach students’ experiences at the totalitarian institutions.3 Thus, reading and deconstructing the IRS space syntax is significant to understand the consequences of racist mechanisms and the students´ efforts to resist different assaults on their identities. Therefore, this paper analyzes constructions, meanings, and effects of space in IRS of British Columbia by means of Dieter Läpple´s four categories of societal spaces. The first category looks at the physically built world and material manifestations of settler colonialism such as the architecture of school buildings. Secondly, actions and interactions in school space expose segregation and hierarchies along the lines of gender, race, and age. At the same time, dynamic spaces of intersections reveal relations between people and places (e.g. liminal spaces, attempts of subversion). A third level is targeted on the normative system of spatial regulations and enquires about rules, punishments, monitoring, and the structure of time. Fourthly, symbols and representations of the “civilizing” design are analyzed. How did colonial constructions of space try to destroy Indigenous cultures? How did students experience and circumvent aggressive assimilation? These questions are discussed by drawing on Indigenous interpretations of space in oral histories, language, customs, and relations of community, ancestry and land. The paper employs photographs, maps, survivors´ testimonials, and secondary literature. Footnotes: 1 Joe, Rita, “Hated Structure: Indian Residential School, Shubenacadie, N.S” In: Woods, Jody, “I Remind Until I Fall:” An Examination of Space, Memory and Experience at the Coqualeetza Residential School and Indian Hospital, Master Thesis, University of British Columbia, Oct 1998, p. 1. 2 An exception would be de Leeuw, Sarah, “Intimate colonialisms: the material and experienced places of British Columbia's residential school,” Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, Sept 2007, Vol.51(3), pp.339-359. 3 For a further discussion of IRS as "total institutions" see Chrisjohn/Young, The Circle Game, 2006, 86-94.

 
May 4th, 9:00 AM May 4th, 10:30 AM

SESSION 1.2: Space Stories: Constructions, Meanings, and Effects of Space in Indian Residential Schools of British Columbia

IB 1015

The structure stands as if to say:I was just a base for theory To bend the will of children I remind Until I fall.1 Space as a crucial category for atmosphere, power, ideology, and identity is often neglected within the research literature on Indian residential schools (IRS).2 However, I argue that constructions and uses of spaces in IRS reveal bio-political strategies to control and transform First Nations children on the one hand, and, on the other, offer new angles to approach students’ experiences at the totalitarian institutions.3 Thus, reading and deconstructing the IRS space syntax is significant to understand the consequences of racist mechanisms and the students´ efforts to resist different assaults on their identities. Therefore, this paper analyzes constructions, meanings, and effects of space in IRS of British Columbia by means of Dieter Läpple´s four categories of societal spaces. The first category looks at the physically built world and material manifestations of settler colonialism such as the architecture of school buildings. Secondly, actions and interactions in school space expose segregation and hierarchies along the lines of gender, race, and age. At the same time, dynamic spaces of intersections reveal relations between people and places (e.g. liminal spaces, attempts of subversion). A third level is targeted on the normative system of spatial regulations and enquires about rules, punishments, monitoring, and the structure of time. Fourthly, symbols and representations of the “civilizing” design are analyzed. How did colonial constructions of space try to destroy Indigenous cultures? How did students experience and circumvent aggressive assimilation? These questions are discussed by drawing on Indigenous interpretations of space in oral histories, language, customs, and relations of community, ancestry and land. The paper employs photographs, maps, survivors´ testimonials, and secondary literature. Footnotes: 1 Joe, Rita, “Hated Structure: Indian Residential School, Shubenacadie, N.S” In: Woods, Jody, “I Remind Until I Fall:” An Examination of Space, Memory and Experience at the Coqualeetza Residential School and Indian Hospital, Master Thesis, University of British Columbia, Oct 1998, p. 1. 2 An exception would be de Leeuw, Sarah, “Intimate colonialisms: the material and experienced places of British Columbia's residential school,” Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, Sept 2007, Vol.51(3), pp.339-359. 3 For a further discussion of IRS as "total institutions" see Chrisjohn/Young, The Circle Game, 2006, 86-94.