British Journal of Canadian Studies

Introduction: Reflections on health and the body at Canadian Indian residential schools

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2017), 30, (2), 143–145.


Evan J. Habkirk and Janice Forsyth Introduction: Reflections on health and the body at Canadian Indian residential schools Introduction The overall theme of this journal arose some time ago from conversations between many of the contributors about the term ‘health’ and the different ways researchers have applied it to our understanding of the Indian residential school system in Canada. The more we discussed how the term had been applied, and mulled over the possible implications of those applications, the more we recognised the importance of exploring the boundaries of the term, going beyond its traditional usage referring to hospitalisation and medical treatment. As this special issue demonstrates, health, when used in the context of Canada’s Indian residential schools, is linked directly to physical education programming, food and malnutrition, language and intergenerational trauma, extra-curricular programming, military preparedness, and cultural identity. Although this collection represents a small sample of the work being carried out by researchers in Canada, we hope it opens up the possibilities for research and understanding regarding healthrelated matters stemming from the residential school system. All of the contributors to this special issue are also politically engaged in one way or another in their various fields. As such, we paid close attention to the final reports of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a federally mandated body that was responsible for collecting and documenting the history of the Indian residential school system from the perspective of the students. Although the six-year investigation ended in 2015, research into the health aspects of the system continues as Indigenous people and Canadians wrestle with complex matters tied to health. All of the articles in this collection refer to some extent to the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Ian Mosby and Tracey Galloway’s article, ‘“The abiding condition was hunger”: assessing the long-term biological and health effects of malnutrition and hunger in Canada’s residential schools’, explores the present-day effects of historical malnutrition on Indigenous people and Indigenous communities. Citing malnutrition studies from around the world, the authors argue that British Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 30, no. 2

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Author details

Habkirk, Evan J.

Forsyth, Janice