“Were It Not for the Spirit of the Boys… There Would Have Been No Story”: Memory and Childhood in Residential School Narratives
This article examines how the policies and practices of the residential school system refracted the conceptual dynamics of childhood in twentieth-century Canada and shaped the lives of Indigenous children in that system. In particular, I discuss how the racializing logic of the residential system totalized or disrupted broader conceptual shifts in the relationship of childhood to the public domain and to adulthood. In this context, I draw on three residential school narratives to argue that memory played an essential role in the lives of the Indigenous students as a crucial site of creative agency, and in the residential school system’s strategy of assimilation. These narratives make a certain twentieth-century Indigenous child knowable to history, one that relies on a set of relationships, held together by memory, among the child, the adult, and the familial and communal narratives in which they are situated.