The residential school system is a long hidden aspect of the treatment of the Native Americans. Many people criticize the United States for not intervening in many known cases of genocide such as the Bosnian genocide, the holocaust, and the Rwandan genocide. However, what most people do not even realize is that in the case of the Native Americans, the United States and Canada were not uninvolved bystanders but an active perpetrators and facilitators. It may be easy to attribute the destruction of the Native American people to incidents that happened long before our time. However, the last residential school did not close until 1996. This makes residential schools and their effects still a prominent and relevant topic in Native American Communities. The residential school system is unique because it is a program that not only affects the victims. The trauma of residential schools is something that has seeped into past and future generations of Native American communities.
Substance abuse is a large problem amongst survivors of residential schools. The majority of survivors faced at least some form of abuse rather it be sexual, physical or emotional. If they did not personal undergo abuse almost every student saw friends or classmates go through abuse. Often times turning to drugs or alcohol to help cope. Substance abuse problems were also present amongst many of the student’s parents. The trauma of having a child taken from them by force was often too much to deal with and the assistance of alcohol and drugs often helped numb the pain. Furthermore parental substance abuse has detrimental affects on children. The children of women who abuse substances during pregnancy are at risk for the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and other birth defects. Among the lifelong problems documented for children with parents battling a substance abuse problem are impaired learning capacity; a propensity to develop a substance use disorder; adjustment problems, including increased rates of divorce, violence, and mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and low self esteem. The intergenerational affect of post-traumatic-stress was also evaluated. Researchers have presented a specific diagnosis known as Residential School Syndrome as a mental disorder present amongst survivors. However, there is not enough evidence to suggest that Residential School Syndrome is a wholly separate diagnosis other than a subcategory of post-traumatic stress syndrome. That being said post-traumatic stress disorder is an extremely serious condition that has multiple effects on victims and their families. Post-traumatic stress disorder can alienate victims from their families, as they are uncomfortable in social settings and also their tendency to stray away from relationships. Families can also be placed in economic turmoil if the primary provider suffers from post-traumatic stress it can jeopardize their job.
Another essential effect that residential schools had on generations is the difficulty of survivors to integrate back into their home communities. In residential schools students were forced to use English as their primary language in all aspects of their daily lives. This resulted in the loss of many Native American languages. Parents found it difficult to communicate with children once they returned from the schools. Victims often times failed to pass on the traditional languages to their children because they couldn’t remember them or it brought back memories of being punished for speaking out. The failure to pass on traditional languages can leave both victims and their children with a clouded sense of identity. It also contributes to a larger issue of a loss of culture. Many survivors in their time at residential schools became unfamiliar with traditional tribal ways of life. It is a shame that such a vibrant and ancient culture is not being preserved to the full extent and passed down amongst new generations. The system of residential schools in the United States and Canada undoubtedly constitute genocide to the fullest extent. This century long system is something that needs to be brought to the attention of the general public. The residential school system in the United States and Canada has caused irreversible effects on the Native American families and communities that exist today.
 “Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy,” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration US, last modified 2004, accessed November 20, 2014. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/TIP-39-Substance-Abuse-Treatment-and-Family-Therapy/SMA12-4219