Pre-residential school children were healthy

June 28, 2016

In a recently published article in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, findings from a study conducted by SPHERU researchers Paul Hackett and Sylvia Abonyi, and fellow University of Saskatchewan researcher Roland Dyck reveal that Indigenous children were healthy prior to entering residential schools.

Researchers analyzed microfilm records of more than 1,700 children entering the schools between 1919 and the 1950s. The findings indicate that 80 per cent of the children were at a healthy weight, suggesting that many of the health problems that disproportionately affect Indigenous people today can be linked back to the residential school experience.

In an editorial released alongside the article researchers reflect on the challenges of ethically carrying out archival research using public records where issues of consent and confidentiality are present. In the paper, researchers outline the strategies they took in an effort to mitigate these issues, including broad consultation with Indigenous partners, colleagues and organizations as the work unfolded. "Overwhelmingly, our Indigenous colleagues affirm that the data from the health examinations tells an important part of the residential school story and that they should be used for this type of scholarly research, despite the circumstances under which they were collected."

The study has generated national, and international, interest with articles and interviews appearing in a number of media outlets, several of which are provided below.



Full Article:  Anthropometric indices of First Nations children and youth on first entry to Manitoba/Saskatchewan residential schools—1919 to 1953

Editorial:  Reflections on ethical challenges encountered in Indigenous health research using archival records


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