Aug 19/98: Woman tells of abuse at residential school


Nanaimo Daily News
August 19, 1998
Canadian Press

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

NANAIMO, B.C. (CP) - A woman taken to a Vancouver Island native residential school when she was six years old described 12 years of degradation, abuse and rape on Tuesday. Martha Joseph and her four-year-old sister were taken from Kispiox, on British Columbias north coast to the Alberni Indian residential school in the 1950s.

She is now one of more than two dozen men and women suing the United Church of Canada and the federal government for physical and sexual abuse they suffered at the school.

Earlier this year, Justice Donald Brenner ruled in B.C. Supreme Court that the church and government were liable for the actions of Arthur Henry Plint, who committed many of the assaults at the school. Plint is now serving a prison term for the assaults.

The current phase of the suit will determine direct liability, then the final phase will decide costs.

Joseph testified Tuesday that she left Kispiox speaking only the Gitxan language but when she returned six years later, she felt like a stranger to her own parents. "I didn't know them and I didn't care," she said. "All the feeling I had for my mum was taken away."

Joseph said school staff frequently referred to her as a dirty little Indian. When she was caught stealing a wiener for her younger sister, the female cook shoved the wiener in the [word unclear] and then burned her hand on the stove, she said.

School principal A. E. Caldwell had her to clean his apartment at the residential school, she said. He caught her stealing a cigarette in the apartment and threatened to send her to reform school unless she did as he asked, Joseph said. He then fondled her and forced her to masturbate him, she said. When she told the school matron what happened, she was spanked and forced to clean a set of cement stairs with a toothbrush, she said.

On a subsequent visit to Caldwells apartment he raped her so violently she had to stay in the school infirmary for several weeks, Joseph said. After she recovered, the rapes continued, but she said nothing about what was happening to her, she said. "I didn't want to be called a dirty lying Indian again," Joseph said.

Her sister, on her deathbed, also said she was raped repeatedly by Caldwell, Joseph said.

Back to SIS