Opening of the Battleford Industrial School

Battleford Industrial School was opened in 1883 on the orders of the Federal Government and the recommendation of Edgar Dewdney who selected Rev. Thomas Clarke to be principal and overseer. Establishing industrial schools in the Northwest Territories was the idea of Edgar Dewdney as a response to the poor attendance within day schools. Rev. Thomas Clarke ran the school until July 1, 1895.

The site of Battleford was considered a convenient location for an industrial school by officials in Ottawa due to its location on the railway line. Rev. Thomas Clark was an English missionary who had been active in the Battlefords region since October 15, 1877, by which time he had already opened the first day school in the region and spent time conducting religious services in Cree. Despite his experience teaching in day schools, Clarke had no formal teaching training and lacked a background in educational administration. The Battleford Industrial school was initially met with suspicion from the local Aboriginal community and the parents of children who objected to the long years of estrangement from their children. With time, parents began to yield to coercion and the industrial school flourished. Fearing a reaction from the Aboriginal community, departmental officials never enforced the regulation of compulsory attendance. This led to a further decline in enrollments after 1900.
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