A day for remembering today, for truth and reflection and commemoration. On this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we honour the survivors of Canada’s residential schools as well as those who never returned home.
From the collection of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, this photograph shows students from the St. Philip’s Residential School in Saskatchewan in 1940. Run by the Catholic Missionary Oblate Sisters, St. Philip’s history dates back to 1902 and the construction of a boarding school on the Keeseekoose First Nation, a Saulteaux reserve near Kamsack. The NCTR page for St. Philip’s (here) tells this story:
Poor conditions in the school led to its closure in 1914. It reopened in 1927 as the St. Philip’s school. In 1957 the school farm ceased operation and the boarding school was increasingly used as a residence for students attending local day schools. During the 1960s, a period when sexual and physical abuse was a widespread problem at the school, a school supervisor was dismissed for mistreatment of students. The school closed in 1969.
As the NCTR also notes, a National Residential School Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students. This 24-hour Crisis Line can be accessed at: 1-866-925-4419.
A new number today, 751, to add to the older one, 215, while we wait for next one, as the dreadful toll of Canada’s residential schools, buried for too long, rises, and rises.
The undated photograph above was taken at Bishop Horden Hall Indian Residential School, which was run by the Anglican Church at Moose Factory, Ontario, on the Moose River, at the southern end of James Bay. It operated for 70 years, starting in 1906. In 1964, it was converted from a school to a hostel. It closed in 1976.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has a detailed history of the school online, here, including harrowing (and surely incomplete) records of cruelty and sickness. An entry registering the 1940 deaths from tuberculosis of two male students notes that the Indian Agent reported that one boy’s family was “not notified of sickness or death of child as there was no way to send word.”
The NCTR has a memorial page — it’s here — for Bishop Horden. It lists the names of 25 children known to have died as a result of their time at the school.
Old Sun Indian Residential School had been in operation for more than 40 years by the time this photograph was taken in the 1930s. Established in 1886 by the Anglican Church on what was then the Blackfoot Reserve (Siksika Nation) within the Treaty 7 area, southeast of Calgary, near the town of Gleichen, Alberta, Old Sun lasted another four decades, finally closing in 1971, after 85 years. As the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation notes in its online registry of residential schools, a 1908 report on Old Sun described the school as “unsanitary,” its buildings “unsuitable in every way for such an institution.”
Setting hockey aside, recommended for your reading today is Andrew Nikiforuk’s feature from The Tyee this week on Dr. Peter Bryce, Canada’s first chief medical officer of health, who (more than a century ago and repeatedly) warned the government he worked for of the all too fatal flaws of their residential schools. He was ignored. That’s here.
Also: watch, if you would, this statement from former Senator Murray Sinclair, who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
The Roman Catholic Church ran the Sept-Îles Indian Residential School at Maliotenam, Quebec, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, from 1952 through 1967. This photograph of the school’s hockey team isn’t dated, but it looks to have been taken at some point in the ’60s. Appearing in the back row, from left to right: Père Laurent, Thaddeus André, Omer Rock, Jules Bacon, Donald St-Onge, Mathias Malec, unidentified boy, unidentified boy, Frère Trudel. Front row, left to right: Valentin Jourdain, Louis Georges Prépeau, unidentified boy, Charles St-Onge, Sylvester Rock. (Image: Library and Archives Canada / PA-212964)