The Kids Who Never Made it Home


A nun and group of Indigenous students at a Residential School in Manitoba, Canada in 1940.

A part of North American history that is not taught in schools today are the Residential Schools that indigenous kids were forced to attend.  In the last year there have been remains of children discovered at these horrific schools. According to the TRC(The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada) they have identified 3,200 deaths of Indigenous students at Residential Schools in Canada alone.  

Indigenous minors were taken away from their families and put into Residential Schools starting in the early 1800’s. The schools were meant to “civilize” the youth and to strip them of their Native culture. They were forced to cut their hair, change their name,  not speak their language, and could not sing their ceremonial songs. If the students broke any of these rules they would be punished.

The main cause of death at the Residential Schools was disease. These schools were often overcrowded and not well kept. According to,  in 1915 the Indian tuberculosis incidence rate at Indian boarding schools (and on reservations) was four or more times the non-Indian rate. The worst diseases that most kids died from were tuberculosis, influenza, whooping cough, measles and smallpox.

One of the most recent discoveries of remains have been found at a Paiute Residential School in Panguitch, Utah. There are believed to be at least the remains of 12 Paiute children who attended the school, but there could be even more bodies found. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, at the time the school opened the Paiutes had been decimated to just 2,000 people, down from tens of thousands, according to historical census documents. This is an alarming stat showing the mass genocide that has taken place on American soil on Indigenous tribes.

America does a great job to twist history so that they hide the genocide against Indigenous tribes. Very rarely will you talk about this topic in your textbooks or from your history teacher. This should be one of the main topics that we discuss in schools because it shows how America came to be. America was a country built on the genocide of Indigenous people. Indigenous tribes have suffered ever since the first European explorers showed up in North America. Indigenous people have been forced to leave their land, murdered, and their kids were put in schools to strip away their culture. Change needs to happen on how these topics are taught in school. 

The children that died at these schools never got to make it back home to their families. When asking the chairwoman of the Paiute Indian Tribe -Corinna Bow- about what can be done today for the children she explained that, “The best thing that can be done today is to send the kids back home to their tribes, through ceremony this can be done.” Many tribes have held ceremonies for the children to send them back home so their spirit is no longer trapped at those schools. 

The Every Child Matters Movement is to bring awareness to the Indigenous students who died at Residential schools. There have been many protests at these schools which are no longer operating. Many supporters of this movement wear orange to represent the kids who lost their lives at the hands of Residential Schools. Students in school today should be taught the real history of what happened to Indigenous tribes in North America.