Harold Greyeyes, a student who attended the Lebret Indian Residential School from 1936 to 1944 recalls a typical day in school. The days were long, beginning at 6 am and ending at 9 pm everyday. Activities were strictly regulated due to the influence of principle Fr. DeBretange, a retired colonel from the French Foreign Legion and the second-in-command who was a retired RCMP sergeant. The day's events and tasks were divided into half-hour blocks. The students routinely had prayers, meal times, chores, class room time, and recess.
An assembly organized by Louis Riel at Batoche confirmed the split between the Metis and the Catholic Clergy at the settlement (represented by Fathers Fourmond, Moulin, and Végréville). The clergy did not support Riel’s plan for resistance. In the following months this split grew into an estrangement. The clergy threatened to withhold the sacraments from the Metis if they rose up again the “established authority.” As a result, on 19 March 1885 when the “little provisional government of Saskatchewan” was formed the government took over the church and rectory at Batoche.
AM, MG9, A6, Guillaume Charette, “Memoirs de Louis Goulet” translation.
A lack of professional training in Residential school teachers was noted as early as the 1890s and had not significantly improved by the early 1960s. Many of the missionary organizations who oversaw appointments of teaching candidates considered 'missionary spirit' or religious enthusiasm more important than academic preparation. In the 1940s the Department of Indian Affairs was aware that religion took precedence over academic studies for most teachers in the residential school system. By the 1950s many of the most dedicated teachers emphasized their religious teachings over academic studies. Students from both the Cowessess and Thunderchild Residential Schools who attended in the 1950s report that religious instruction was the primary focus of these schools as opposed to education in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Former student Cedric Duncan observed, "Seemed like they just wanted us to learn about praying and all that stuff quite a bit." A common experience for students who attempted to go on to other institutions was an under preparation for future education and academic ventures as a result of their failed education in Residential schools. A Saulteax man discovered after attending St. Philip's in the 1950s when "both at Marieval residential school and at St Joseph's college he found himself poorly trained for the academic program, and in the latter case he was so embarrassed by his educational deficiencies that he dropped out at fifteen."
Following the Red River Resistance and the Manitoba Act’s passing a wave of new settlers from Eastern Canada arrived in Manitoba. These individuals were largely English Protestant and were linguistically and religiously intolerant. The French Metis experienced violence and a general disregard for their land rights.
Members of the Swan River, Crooked Lakes, File Hills, and Touchwood agencies attended a Sun Dance in Yorkton. The actions of participants were criticized, but there was no direct action by government or police to stop the ceremony.
J.D McLean to G. Forget, July 1, 1898 (NAC, RG-10, vol. 3,825, file 60,511-1), 1.
An all-night ritual took place near the Red Pheasant reserve featuring 15 members of the Native American Church, 13 members of the Stony Reserve (Alberta) and Red Pheasant Band, and peyote. Non-Indigenous observers were also present.
Saskatoon Star Pheonix, "White Men Witness Indian Peyote Rites," 13 October 1956.
In 1952, the ritual consumption of peyote related to the activities of the Native American Church was reported among members of the Cree band led by Louis Sunchild. Sunchild, an Alberta First Nation leader, was stopped at the Montana-Alberta border carrying peyote. RCMP took him into custody, and although he was released, the peyote was retained and the report and images of his peyote stash were circulated to Indian Agents across Western Canada.
Memo from Lethbridge sub-division. 19 March. 1/1-16-2, 10243, T-7545, RG10. Indian Affairs fonds. LAC.
Between 1845 and 1855 the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate established a series of missions across the west, including at Ile-à-la-Crosse, where many Metis voyageurs wintered. In 1846, two Catholic priests, Alexandre Taché and Louis Richer Leflèche arrived at Ile-à-la-Crosse to establish the St Peter mission.These missions became bases of operations from which clergy travelled in the 1850s and 1860s to seasonal camps on the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers to spread Christianity.
PAA, OMI, Little chronicle of St. Laurent, 1875-1877 [Father André] (translation).
Many students experienced sexual abuse at the hands of school faculty, local clergy members, lay persons from the local community, and other students. Some victims of sexual assault in Residential Schools have remained silent about their experiences for multiple reasons, including shame, fear of disbelief, and symptoms of psychological trauma that are harmful to retell to the survivors. However, given the number of survivors who have reported sexual assault, and the extensive research already collected on the conditions of Residential schools, it is inarguable that sexual violence was widespread throughout the institutions, having immediate and long-term effect on Indigenous peoples and their communities. This is affirmed by Mel H. Buffalo, an adviser to the Samson band in Alberta, who says that "every Indian person I have spoken to who attended these schools has a story of mental, physical or sexual abuse.". Several incidents of sexual abuse and neglect occurred under Principle McWhinney at the Crowstand IRS. Following incidents of abuse in 1914, D. C. Scott, Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs, instructed that female students be sent home. It was deemed the institution was no longer safe to continue mixed education of boys and girls.
Sexual violence/abuse was recorded since the beginning of Residential Schools in the late nineteenth century. Abuse was usually ignored or covered up by school and church authorities. Those that were addressed rarely went beyond the perpetrator being told to stop with no further action taken. It was not until the late 1980s and early 1990s that allegations of sexual exploitation/assault by faculty were treated seriously with a number of investigations, arrests, and convictions. While there has been some institutional response from the federal government and church in more recent years, there continues to be barriers in acquiring support and compensation for many survivors and the long-term impacts of Residential Schooling. One ongoing legal battle the federal government has spent 3.2 million dollars against since 2013 are the survivors of St. Anne’s residential school in Ontario. Survivors have asked for a renegotiation of compensation terms after new information “documenting the serious nature of the sexual and physical abuse rampant at St Anne’s” (Royal Canadian Geographical Society, A Fight For Truth) was released following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The federal government denies that larger compensation is owed. This demonstrates the continuation of settler colonial violence against survivors and the wavering commitment of the Canadian Government to engage in true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
- RG-10 RECORDS AND DOCUMENT SUMMARY
RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: Agent Blewett to Secretary, 21 July, 1914.
Regarding the investigation into the hapenning at Crowstand school in March and May of 1914. "From statements, of five of the larger girls, signed by these girls in the presence of witnesses, I find that during March last H. Everett, then farmer at the school, entered the girls dormitory alone on two nights and spent some time in the company of two girls in seperate beds. A few nights after this, Everett, with five boys from the Reserve adjacent, entered the same dormitory and spent about half an hour there, each boy (except one who had no girls) got into bed with one of the girls. The girls deny that any immoral acts were committed, but in the case of three older ones, I doubt the truth if this. In May last, from statements signed by Harriet Papequosh and Clara Fiddler, Everett had these two girls, seperatly in his private room, and locked the doors and had sexual intercourse with them." Regarding principle Mc Whinney being sick at the time of the investigation: "I found out after that he knew of the irregularities and had dismissed Everett, so that before I had definite facts to proceed on, Everett had left this district. I will try to bring him to justice. I would like advice as to what I had better do regarding the Reserve men who were in the school with Everett that night. The girls in question are 14 and 15 years old." Regarding Crowstand school: "The School Building at Crowstand is not at all suitable for good, safe and healthy work and if the Boarding School is to be continued a new school should be built at the earliest possible moment, before more serious things happen.
RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: Agent Blewett to Secretary, August 25, 1914.
"After giving the matter careful consideration, Scott concludes that it would not be well to continue the co-education of the sexes in this school any longer. For this reason it has been decided to return the girls to their parents so that their mothers may be in a position to look after them until other suitable arrangements can be made for their education. The school may be kept for the boys exclusively and Mr. McWhinney is being instructed to discharge all the girls and return them to their homes. Scott does not accept the responsibility of condoning McWhinney's treatment of the Everett incident. Scott believes McWhinney is no longer of great use at Crowstand as the Indians have no confidence in his management of the school."
RG10, C- 8147, Vol. 6027, File 117-1-1, part 1; Title: D.C. Scott to A. Grant, 19 September, 1914.
Regarding the irregularities reported at Crowstand School: "I beg to say that I am pleased to learn, on final hearing in court, from the girls concerned, that the reserve boys were not in the dormitories as formerly reported, but were trying to get in only. As it was on oath we must believe it, although Mr. Bradford and myself thought it the case of all but two there were doubts, however we accepted it and hope it is true. Mr McWhinney has written me stating that Everett confessed to him before he was dismissed, that he had immoral relations with the girls in question, but being unwell at the time and hoping the young man would be benifited by this lesson, he sent him from the school and closed the matter up." In a correspondence dated 19 September, 1914 to Reverend Andrew Grant from the Deputy Superintendent General, it is noted that the girls were eventually sent home from the Crowstand school, and it became a only boys school until further arrangements were made.
- Baiguzhiyeva, Dariya. “St Anne’s residential school survivors reject Ottawa’s request for independent review.” TIMMINSTODAY.com. March 26, 2021. https://www.timminstoday.com/local-news/st-annes-residential-schoolsurvivorsreject-ottawas-request-for-independent-review-3578450
- Capitaine, Brieg, and Vanthuyne, Karine, eds. Power through Testimony: Reframing Residential Schools in the Age of Reconciliation. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017. 321.
- Milloy, John S. A National Crime: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1999. 144-145.
- Miller, J. R. Shingwauk's Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996. 337-338.
- Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Issuing Body. “A Fight for Truth.” In, Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada = Atlas Des Peuples Autochtones Du Canada. First ed. Aboriginal Education Collection. 2018. https://indigenouspeoplesatlasofcanada.ca/article/a-fight-for-truth/
The Native American Church, or ‘Peyote Religion,’ which included 40-50 members of Red Pheasant, became officially incorporated under the Saskatchewan Benevolent Societies Act of 1954, after having begun the quest for legal charter status earlier that year.
E.W Cousineau to R. Bottle, 1954 (NAC, RG 10, vol. 10,243, file 1/-16-2)