The historical trauma associated with the Indian Residential School (IRS) system was recently brought to the awareness of the Canadian public. Two studies investigated how the salience of this collective victimization impacted non-Indigenous Canadians’ expectations that Indigenous peoples ought to derive psychological benefits (e.g., learned to appreciate life) and be morally obligated to help others. Study 1 found that modern racism was related to perceptions that Indigenous peoples psychologically benefitted from the IRS experience, which in turn, predicted greater expectations of moral obligation. Study 2 replicated the relations among racism, benefit finding, and moral obligation among non-Indigenous Canadians (historical perpetrators of the harm done) and Americans (third-party observers). Americans were uniquely responsive to a portrayal of Indigenous peoples in Canada as strong versus vulnerable. Factors that distance observers from the victim (such as racism or third-party status) appear to influence perceptions of finding benefit in victimization experiences and expectations of moral obligation.
Doiron MJ, Branscombe N, Matheson K (2021) Non-Indigenous Canadians’ and Americans’ moral expectations of Indigenous peoples in light of the negative impacts of the Indian Residential Schools. PLoS ONE 16(5): e0252038. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0252038