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History General

Shingwauk's Vision

A History of Native Residential Schools

by (author) J.R. Miller

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
May 1996
General, Native American Studies, Native American
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 1996
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 1996
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 1996
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With the growing strength of minority voices in recent decades has come much impassioned discussion of residential schools, the institutions where attendance by Native children was compulsory as recently as the 1960s. Former students have come forward in increasing numbers to describe the psychological and physical abuse they suffered in these schools, and many view the system as an experiment in cultural genocide. In this first comprehensive history of these institutions, J.R. Miller explores the motives of all three agents in the story. He looks at the separate experiences and agendas of the government officials who authorized the schools, the missionaries who taught in them, and the students who attended them.

Starting with the foundations of residential schooling in seventeenth-century New France, Miller traces the modern version of the institution that was created in the 1880s, and, finally, describes the phasing-out of the schools in the 1960s. He looks at instruction, work and recreation, care and abuse, and the growing resistance to the system on the part of students and their families. Based on extensive interviews as well as archival research, Miller's history is particularly rich in Native accounts of the school system.

This book is an absolute first in its comprehensive treatment of this subject. J.R. Miller has written a new chapter in the history of relations between indigenous and immigrant peoples in Canada.


Co-winner of the 1996 Saskatchewan Book Award for nonfiction.

Winner of the 1996 John Wesley Dafoe Foundation competition for Distinguished Writing by Canadians

Named an 'Outstanding Book on the subject of human rights in North America' by the Gustavus Myer Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.

About the author

J.R. Miller is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Saskatchewan. He is the author of numerous works on issues related to Indigenous peoples including Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens and Shingwauk’s Vision, both published by University of Toronto Press.

J.R. Miller's profile page

Editorial Reviews

'In the opinion of this reviewer, there has not been - nor is there likely to be - as complete an inquiry and as trustworthy a standard for evaluating the Native residential school phenomenon as this exhaustive and engaging treatise.'


'Miller has amassed more than a decade of research to provide the historical, factual basis for the headlines that have recently put this shameful episode in Canadian history into newspaper headlines.'

Halifax Daily News

'Miller's book invites not only the government and the churches but the entire Canadian populace to face more honestly their historical encounter with the First Nations.'

Catholic New Times

'Cumulatively, Miller's book has the impact of the depiction of a death camp: horrifying, unrelenting, inhuman, impossible. It is difficult not to turn away.'

The Vancouver Sun

'To reflect on Miller's text is to realize that the Indian residential school scandal in Canada is still in its early stages. Many crimes that were committed are still be ignored or covered up by those in authority.'

Catholic New Times

'Now Prof. J.R. Miller, an historian at the University of Saskatchewan, has written the first comprehensive history of the schools ... his extensive research leads him to provide a balance which has been missing in many other, more hastily arranged commentaries.'

Catholic Register

'J.R. Miller is a highly regarded Saskatchewan historian, but he also has the makings of an outstanding coroner. In Shingwauk's Vision, he has autopsied the barely cooled corpse of the native residential school system. With clinical precision he has examined every aspect of a wrong-headed and catastrophic experiment in social engineering that lasted for three-and-a-half centuries before the federal government finally stepped in and pulled the plug in 1969. ... Miller's work is destined to be the reference work on this subject for years to come. As a thorough, reasoned, and illuminating look at a sorry chapter of Canadian history, it is required reading and long overdue.'

Quill and Quire

'Once again Miller has done his homework. Shingwauk's Vision presents a collection of chapters that will set a new precedent for truth and circumstance. ...Miller's book provides a significant and detailed view of the residential school. He pulls no punches in telling the story nor does he hold back the tough questions and comments that come from his subjects. His 15 years of interest, thought and research paid off when he penned Shingwauk's Vision. At last, a realistic view of what really went wrong with the residential school concept.'

Alberta Native News

'In Shingwauk's Vision Miller creates a tapestry where previously there existed only snapshots, and his work may well change the way in which the whole residential school debate is framed.'

Ottawa Citizen

'[Miller] has deepened his approach as a scholar and as an engaged participant in the unfolding life of Indian Country. His analysis goes well beyond the intellectually-limiting constraints of the racially-defined invention of American social scientists known as "Indian-White relations." He conveys a more sophisticated, subtle and comprehensive sense of his subject's often complex, overlapping and intertwined ideas and identities that frequently defy easy categorization.'

LRC: The Literary Review of Canada

'Miller deplores the sensational approach taken by the media and gives all sides their due. ... But the weight of his findings condemns the system, and ultimately Miller fixes the blame on all of us. ... He warns that in the explosive climate of today's race relations, the "convenient amnesia" of the past can no longer be avoided.'

NeWest Review

'What a read! Miller, in his historical documentation of the Native Residential Schools provides us with the most comprehensive interpretation of residential schools so far written.'

Anglican Journal

Other titles by J.R. Miller