“I’m not really healed … I’m just bandaged up”: Perceptions of healing among former students of Indian residential schools

  • Tracey Carr
  • Brian Chartier
  • Tina Dadgostari
Keywords: Indian residential schools, Resolution Health Support Program, healing, interviews, qualitative research


Attempts at resolution between former students of Indian residential schools and the non-Aboriginal Canadian population began with the signing of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement in 2006. The Settlement Agreement outlined provisions for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to document the stories of former students and for the Resolution Health Support Program to offer emotional and cultural support to former students and their families. Although former students have catalogued their stories through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process, experiences of healing from the events of Indian residential schools remain relatively unknown. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the perceptions of healing among former Indian residential school students. In partnership with an Aboriginal support agency in a small Saskatchewan city, we interviewed 10 Aboriginal people affected by residential schools. The focus of the interviews was to generate participants’ conceptions and experiences of healing regarding their residential school experiences. We found all participants continued to experience physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual impacts of residential school attendance. Disclosure of their experiences was an important turning point for some participants. Their efforts to move on varied from attempting to “forget” about their experience to reconnecting with their culture and/or following their spiritual, religious, or faith practices. Participants also noted the profound intergenerational effects of residential schools and the need for communities to promote healing. The findings will be used to guide an assessment of the healing needs among this population in Saskatchewan.

Research Papers