Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/7/2015 (612 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Did my neighbours commit ‘cultural genocide?’
Maybe, maybe not. But they did operate a residential school here until quite recently.
The Assiniboia Indian Residential High School at 615 Academy Rd. operated from 1958 until June 1973. You’ll seldom see it as you drive through River Heights. Despite the address, it’s located just off Academy, behind the RCMP building, accessed by a back lane just east of the St. James Bridge where it fronts onto Wellington Park by the river.
It’s a fine building from an architectural point of view and is listed on Canada’s register of historic places. Built from sandstone it was designed by Winnipeg school architect J.B. Mitchell and opened in 1918 as the Julia Clark School, taking the name from a director of the Children’s Home of Winnipeg.
Although its primary function was as a children’s home it also served as a regular school for local children until Sir John Franklin School opened a few years later.
The Children’s Home moved to other premises in 1945. After that it was occupied by the Department of Veteran Affairs and used as an annex for the Deer Lodge Hospital.
In 1958, however, it became part of our checkered legacy when it opened as a residential school for First Nations children. Run by the Catholic Church it was administered by the Grey Nuns and Oblate Fathers.
Jane Glennon, a retired teacher and social worker now living in Prince Albert, Sask., wrote of her time at Assiniboia Indian Residential High School in an article for Media Indigena, an online magazine about the experiences of indigenous peoples in Canada.
In "Sihkos’ Story," she tells how a priest visited her reserve in Saskatchewan to convince her parents of the opportunities such a school could provide. He baptized her as a Catholic so she would be eligible to attend such an institution.
She tells of the tensions between her minority Cree schoolmates and the other mostly Saulteaux/Ojibway children there. But mostly she tells of the isolation and loneliness of being away from her family for 10 months of the year.
She recalls one aboriginal nun in particular who did the children no favours.
After closing as a residential school in 1973, the school was taken over by Parks Canada. It was then that the school dormitories were demolished for the construction of the RCMP forensic science lab.
The school still stands today. Today it functions as the Canadian Centre for Child Protection including Child Find Manitoba, a somewhat fitting tribute considering its history.
That’s the truth and it’s something we all have to reconcile.
Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at email@example.com