Day scholar coordinator recounts experiences in residential school

Jo-Anne Gottfriedson shares the tragedy of Indigenous day scholars and their struggle towards justice

The Kamloops Indian Residential School closed in 1977. Like many other residential schools in Canada, the conditions were horrific. (FILE PHOTO)

A presentation on the topic of Day Scholar: What is it? was held in the Clock Tower on Mar. 19.

The event was presented by Jo-Anne Gottfriedson, a member of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc nation and the Chair of the day scholars Class Action for Tk’emlups in partnership with Sechelt First Nation.

While a lot of people are familiar with the history of the Canadian residential schools for Indigenous people, many people are unaware of the day scholars.

Gottfriedson explained that day scholars were those that attended residential school in the day, but went home at night.

She said that while there is often confusion between a day scholar and a day student, day scholars had to attend residential school, while day students were enrolled in schools where nobody lived.

“We were fed low grade food, banned from interacting with others outside of our grade level and we had to stay outside in the winter because we weren’t allowed to be in the recreational rooms,” she said.

Gottfriedson also explained that the quality of education was very low because the teachers, who were nuns and priests, were not certified.

“It was a lot of abuse from teachers and other residential students who bullied us because they thought we were privileged because we got to go home,” she said.

Gottfriedson also said that she has heard many traumatic stories from other day scholars.

“There was a school where a student was thrown down the stairs and broke his hip, but he never received any medical attention,” she said.

She said that the day scholars were sexually, physically, mentally and spiritually abused.

“The first thing they did was cut our hair, which is a tradition that we only practice when we experience death in the family,” she said.

Gottfriedson explained that day scholars were excluded from the original settlement that provides reparations for First Nations that attended residential schools.

“It started in 2010 when I retired from teaching and did a research project to find out how many community members were left out of the residential school settlement,” she said.

Gottfriedson said she met with chiefs from all across Canada and encouraged them to fight for justice so that day scholars across Canada and their children could get justice.

“Language and culture are vital to our existence as First Nations people and a lot of our people are addicted to drugs and alcohol because they didn’t heal from the trauma of residential school,” she said.

Gottfriedson said she believes the fatal area of the original settlement was excluding the day scholars, because they experienced the same trauma as those that lived in the residential schools.

“We want equal treatment because day scholars should have never been excluded out of the original settlement, so we hope to settle in one to two years outside of court,” she said.