The Residential School Experience: Syndrome or Historic Trauma



Abuses at Indian residential schools have resulted in numerous lawsuits by Aboriginal litigants against four Christian denominations and the Government of Canada. The suggestion has been made that many of these litigants may suffer from a unique form of post traumatic stress disorder called “residential school syndrome.” A competing concept is that these Aboriginal people, and others who never attended a residential school, suffer from a generalized intergenerational condition dating back to the days of colonization, and this condition has been called “historic trauma.” This paper examines the historical evidence supporting both conceptualizations and the implications for treatment associated with each. I conclude that the evidence currently supports the RSS approach, but that further research is needed.

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