Inspection of the Battleford Industrial School


In 1884 Inspector T.P. Wadsworth reported that the classroom "was a large cheerless room." In addition, he recommended that the school should be supplied with iron desks and assorted teaching materials (maps, lesson cards, library books, and library equipment). He also suggested that white servants should be employed at the school to prevent the passing of messages between the students and the aboriginal community. Following Inspector Wadsworth's report, Rev. Clarke wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Edgar Dewdney, which laid out a number of improvements to the facilities and services that he felt should be made. Commissioner Dewdney forwarded these recommendations to Ottawa for approval but received no immediate reply to authorize the improvements.

The proposed improvements were never carried out on the Battleford Industrial School, partially because Ottawa never authorized the changes and partially because of the social tensions in the region due to unresolved Indigenous grievances - these would eventually culminate in the Northwest/Riel Resistance. The school had struggled with student truancy, resistance from parents, and dwindling attendance numbers since it had opened in 1883. By late 1884 the school had also narrowly escaped being destroyed by fire, and communal fears and resentment towards "the government's intention of copying the American system if decentralizing the agencies to the reserves." With the outbreak of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885 the school would be completely abandoned until it was occupied as a barracks by the Canadian forces. The proposed improvements never took place because the government was responsible for school funding and had allotted a set amount of money for all three industrial schools they had set up in cooperation with the Anglican Church. Any finances required above and beyond what had been provided would not be provided. The school at Battleford received the least amount of money out of the three schools. Additionally, the school was also reported to have almost burned down by the Herald not once but twice. The lack of concern for the safety of children attending these schools is indicative of the lack of value associated with Aboriginal children at this point in time.

(Sessional Papers, 1885, Paper No.3, p. 213-214.) (Wadsworth, Inspector, "Report to Ottawa, Battleford, Oct. 25, 1884," B.S, (RG 10) Ottawa: P.A.C.) (Clarke, Letter to "Indian Commissioner, Regina, N.W.T., February 13, 1885" B.S., (RG 10) Ottawa: P.A.C.) (Herald, Volume 7, No. 10, February 27, 1885.)

Sub Event
Poor conditions of the school