Drowning of Student at File Hills Indian Residential School


In November 1912, Inspector of Indian Agencies, W. Graham, reported the drowning of Archie Feather, a seven-year-old boy who attended the File Hills School. Graham was adamant that the school staff and the Presbyterian Church were at fault for not providing enough staff for the proper care of the children. Duncan Campbell Scott, then the accountant for the Department of Indian Affairs, agreed with Graham's report and wrote that it was "clear that negligence has resulted in the loss of life." Scott advised withholding funds from the File Hills School until the proper staff was hired. This suggestion was never heeded and even Scott himself, after becoming the leader of the Department, never "used the power of the purse to ensure that the churches maintained adequate levels of care or to punish school management for abusing the children."

This incident at the File Hills School reflects a larger pattern of abuse and neglect which was endemic to the residential school system as a whole. This event showed a disregard for Indigenous life, and that even after recommendations were made, government and school officials failed to implement them for lack of care. The government's aim with residential schooling was not the education of Indigenous children on the terms of their parents and communities, rather, that schools were meant to assimilate and remove Indigenous children from society as a whole either through assimilation or death. For more information see, 'Physical Abuse in Residential Schools,' and 'Runaways and Student Truancy in the Residential School System.'