The Friendship Moccasins from the Lebret Residential School
*With files and photos from an anonymousreader with *fictitious names
July 11, 2021
In June of this year Star Andreas of Peepeekisis Cree Nation camped out next to the statue of Father Hugonard at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cemetery in Lebret, Sask. for several days in protest. Eventually the statue came down, but it should have come down years ago. It wasn’t soon enough either for the former children that attended the Lebret Industrial School.
Our reader’s grandmother was *Juliane Prevost born June 7, 1911, and died October 14th, 2010. She was 99 years-old and only 5-6 months from her 100th birthday, and fondly known to the family as *’Mere’. When she was a young lady she suffered greatly from asthma and was raised in Trenton, Ontario.
One day her mother packed her bag and gave her a train ticket to visit her cousins who were Grey Nuns at the Indiginous school in Lebret, Saskatchewan. It was said that the dry air would be better for Mere’s asthma and severe eczema. She caught the train and headed off on her own, and family stories say she was barely 14 years-old. However, our reader says that according to her note it was 1930, and at the time of her journey she would have been 19.
The Lebret (Qu’Appelle, St. Paul’s, Whitecalf) Industrial School, was operated by the Roman Catholic Church (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Nuns from Montreal) from 1884 until 1998. It was one of the first three industrial schools that opened and was located on the White Calf (Wa-Pii Moos-Toosis) Reserve, west of the village of Lebret on Treaty 4 land– and one of the last to close.
Sister Francine, fromThe Lebret Industrial School was Mere’s father’s sister. Upon arrival, Sister Francine took her to a room with basic necessities and no mirrors. The children ate in lines, stood in lines, and slept in lines, and the cultural loss was devastating for those native children. Once these children left these residential schools they were stuck in a cultural no-man’s-land with their language extinguished and their culture destroyed. Our reader’s grandmother settled in and the next day attended school to see what they were teaching the Indigenous students. The girls did not have as much education as the boys owing to the large amount of housework, sewing, knitting, mending, washing, etc. which had to be done. The teachers were very strict about segregation. So the boys kept to their side and the girls to the other.
One day when the sister left the classroom, Mere was beaten quite badly by some of the classmates. She had black eyes and many bruises. After that incident one of the female students befriended her (name unknown). Life was not what you wanted for these children.There was a death every month on the girls’ side and the female students were always taken to see the girl’s fresh graves.
Four days of the week they were served oatmeal or cornmeal with milk or syrup with hot tea and bread for breakfast. Butter was supposed to be served to those not as strong. Although the boys milked cows, they never ate butter or drank whole milk. It was common knowledge that the butter was being sold to the villagers. Why was it sold when the children went without? The priests and nuns ate butter. Even though the children complained among themselves, it didn’t change matters any.
Her grandmother decided she wanted something to keep her busy during her time at the school so she asked if she could teach French, and so she did. Mere stayed many months, yet no one in the family is certain how much time she spent there. Just before her journey to return home her friend presented the moccasins to her as a gift of their friendship. The small note with the photo of the moccasins was written by Mere, her grandmother. Her granddaughter, our reader, asked to have and treasure these moccasins when her grandmother passed away.
She never understood the significance of the moccasins until she heard about the Indigenous schools two years ago, and now the news of unmarked mass graves. There was also that massive family photo of hundreds of relatives which included 3 nuns, one of which they have confirmed as Sister Francine; one of the nuns from the Lebret Residential School.
Lebret school had a long history as one of the first industrial schools to open and the last to close. The only reason that these children suffered was because they were born indigenous. It’s hard to forgive people that hurt children, and we need to find them all and bring them home. Our reader wanted this story told about these moccasins and would love the memory of this little Indigenous girl and her friendship gift of these moccasins to live on in a museum. Let’s never forget that friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil.
First Nations children were once living in residential schools under the thumb of priests, nuns and staff charged with purging these children of their culture and traditions and replacing them with their own. Several of the churches were engaged in the management of day and residential schools. This co-operation of the churches in the case of residential schools was as follows: Roman Catholic, 44; Church of England, 21; United Church, 13; Presbyterian Church, 2, making a total of 80. I have never understood why people try to hide history–great nations should never hide their history– but we did.
Today I discovered my truth in this matter by having a flashback and putting two and two together. Funny how that works- and after I had a good cry- I realized that all truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
Years ago in the 1950s and 1960s I used to help my Grandmother with her Anglican church groups preparing “the bales” to go north as they told me. The bales were actually handmade quilts rolled up with warm mittens and scarves, along with books and treats. We made a lot of them each year, and in my young heart I envisioned they were being transported to the North Pole. Every year I saved up my allowance to buy treats for the families that I thought lived in igloos, wore snowsuits and had big smiles like in the books I read. I was wrong – they were being sent to residential schools.
“As early as 1921, one official report described living conditions in residential schools as “a national crime.” When children wet their beds, the nuns at the Sturgeon Lake residential school would wrap the soiled sheets around their heads. If they tried to run away from the school where they were forced to live until they were 16, their heads were shaved. If they dared to speak Cree, their hands were rapped with a ruler. But the thing that hurts the most is they forced their religion on the children day in and day out.”
As I type the above words I wondered if my grandmother’s church group should have sent boxes of hymn books like they used too. I was always told the children loved getting these books– and now I can see that they did not. We have rules now that the government can’t penalize you because of your religious beliefs– so why were these children forced with this injustice. The residential schools were conducted by church authorities, with financial assistance from the Dominion Government and supervised by the Indian affairs section of the Department of the Interior. Half these schools were under Roman Catholic control and they remain divided among the other denominations. An Anglican bishop in Alberta told the media churches must stop “beating themselves up” over the question of abuse at Indian residential schools and should return to the basics of preaching Christianity. Unfortunately, I can’t tell whether the bishop was being purposefully ironic, or he really couldn’t see the contradictions of his statements.
In the larger residential schools in the 1930s daily duties were allotted to the pupils, who took turns:
Set staff table. Clear away all staff dishes. Wait on the staff table. Dry staff dishes. Help to put dishes away In pantry. Sweep kitchen and dust. Clean kitchen stove and kettles.
Pack up and wash staff dishes while staff girl dries. Wash all pot and tea towel. Help with up school meal. Clean both kitchen table before meal.
Wash all tables. Sweep room after all meals. Dust the dining-room thoroughly. Sweep and tidy the lobby after breakfast and dinner. Take wood to the sitting–room when required. Keep the dining-room shelf tidy. Put all Bible and prayer books away tidily.
Dormitory Girl Every day, clean wash stands In both dormitories. Dust. Clean lamp globe.
Monday, prepare for school wash.
Tuesday, sweep and dust boys’ dormitory.
Wednesday, sort and put away clothes. Fill all lamps, also table lamp.
Thursday, sweep and dust girls’ dormitory.
Friday, sweep and dust top bedrooms.
Saturday, sweep both dormitories. Sweep sewing room. Fill all lamps.
After we packed the bales I went home to loving parents. I had a warm meal, watched television and slept in a cozy bed.The next morning I got up for school without having to do the above chores with a full breakfast in my stomach. I told all my friends how we had sent the bales to happy people in the north, not knowing it was all a lie. One hundred and forty articles knitted by the church group members, as well as cash and other things were being shipped to the residential schools. As well, I remember that our church help donate money for an organ so the children could be forced to sing hymns that were not part of their own religion. Why did this all seem so right to everyone when it was all so wrong?
So what should we do now? In a world of TV soap operas an apology is always followed by acceptance, and the story moves on after the required tears and hugs. But, it just doesn’t work quite that way in real life– and especially in this case. More than one in five former school pupils have applied for compensation for living in residential schools have been turned down. Thousands of children that were taken from their families filed claims stating they were sexually and physically abused and forced to learn English. It’s not like we can just turn a page and everything is good. We have to realize that this is not just a dark chapter in our country’s history, it’s something we as a country need to come to terms with when it comes to making decisions about everyones future. We all are connected in a circle of life that is far deeper than any of us can truly understand– and today my realized participation and ignorance came full circle. Apologies are not just enough– it’s a start– but we have to do more than that.
“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.”
I was writing a story about a mail delivery man to Pakenham and in my newspaper archives I found the above two clippings. I became very curious to what happened to this postmaster and what happened to him. As I began to dig a story came out of all this. Get your Kleenex out reading the text and watching the video.
Francis and Elizabeth Shaw
Francis Shaw was born in 1846 and worked as post master at Pakenham. At age 25, he married Elizabeth-Lizzie Argue in January 29, 1873 in Huntley, Carleton, Ontario. Between June of 1873, and February of 1874, Francis moved to the United States. In the 1920 US Census gives Francis’ immigration date to US as 1876; (according to newspaper clipping in Perth Courier in 1873 and the Ottawa Daily Citizen, he was there earlier). He married Margaret Charlotte Hunter Shaw and died in 1922. They had one child John Erwin Shaw. Some websites indicate Elizabeth Argue and her husband, Francis Shaw divorced. A source has not been found for this information.
So what happened to his poor wife Elizabeth Argue Shaw who was deserted in Pakenham? According to a Wiki Tree entry done by Janice Bradley this is her story:
Elizabeth was born in early 1851.
From the Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register:
Name of Person Baptised: Argue Elizabeth Father: Robert Mother: Mary Parents Place of Residence: Huntley Born Where: Huntley Born When: 1851-01-29 Baptised When: 1851-12-20 Baptised Where: Huntley Minister Baptising: Greener, Rev. Jas.
She attended school in Huntley Township, and went onto Ottawa Normal School to become a teacher at S.S. #14 Goulbourne
At 19, she married Francis Shaw. They were married in 1873, Rev. Webster W. Leech. Francis was a postmaster at Pakenham. He was the son of James and Eliza Shaw. They were married at Lizzie’s father’s house in Huntley twp.
Francis Shaw left the marriage sometime between 1873, and 1874. He went to the U.S. and remarried.
Elizabeth went back to teaching. She taught at S.S. No. 14 Goulbourne in 1881, and ran a dress making shop.
In September of 1898, she went to Port Simpson (later known as Lax Kw’alaams) B.C. to work as a relief matron at the Crosby Home for Boys, which was a residential school. She was disturbed by what she saw at the home.
She was offered a teaching position at the Greenville Boys Mission at Greenville (now known as Laxgalts’ap) up the Naas River. She taught there and later returned to Ontario.
She lived with her sister, Louisa Fennell for several years before her health failed. She stayed for 7 years at the Eastern Hospital at Brockville.
Elizabeth Shaw died in the Brockville Asylum in 1917 at the age of 64. It was her time at Port Simpson Crosby School that deterioated her mental state.
In 1898 Elizabeth Shaw went to the Tsimshian village of Port Simpson in Northern B.C. and worked for five weeks as the Matron of the Crosby Boys’ Home, a residential setting for First Nations children. She was extremely upset by what she saw at the home and left. Later, while teaching in Greenville-Lakalzap, she wrote a letter to the Women’s Missionary Society of the Methodist Church describing the bad food and harsh treatment at the Home and detailing a case of physical abuse of a young woman there. Excerpts were forwarded to the Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Toronto who arranged for an investigation. When the investigative report was released stating no change of management was recommended, Mrs. Shaw suffered a breakdown of her health and returned to Ontario.
Five years later, in response to complaints of the same nature from parents and from the Village Band Council, Rev. A.E. Green, the School Inspector and former Methodist Missionary to the North Coast, initiated an investigation which resulted in the Principal’s immediate resignation.
Elizabeth Shaw died in the Brockville Asylum in 1917
Based on Mrs. Shaw’s original letter The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw video below combines an impassioned reading with photographs, other archival material and moving images. This video documents one white woman’s response to the unfair and inhumane treatment of First Nations children in British Columbia’s residential schools.
Based on Mrs. Shaw’s original letter The Awakening of Elizabeth Shaw combines an impassioned reading with photographs, other archival material and moving images. This video documents one white woman’s response to the unfair and inhumane treatment of First Nations children in British Columbia’s residential schools.
June 7 at 10:30 AM · Following are excerpts from Donna Sinclair’s “Remembered Heroes” that appeared first in the United Church Observer (2000) and was reprinted in the Lanark Era in 2000 and 2008:“Lucy Affleck was 44 years old when she took up a teaching position at Round Lake Indian Residential School near Stockholm, Sask. It was 1929. … [described as] ‘totally honest in her thinking.’That honesty led her to write a passionate, five-page confidential letter to the Superintendent of Home Missions, Dr. Alfred Barner, in Toronto, after she had been at Round Lake on a few months.Ms. Affleck was appalled at the living conditions of the children: … no heating fires in the building, ‘except for the day the inspector visited’ during the wet and windy autumn; donated quilts sold instead of used …Steps would be taken to remedy the situation, he replied. But just over a month later, Ms. Affleck wrote again to say she had been called to the principal’s office. ‘Your cheque is there on the desk … [no explanation other than] the church demands the immediate dismissal of anyone disloyal to the staff.’ …She returned to her family home in Lanark, Ont. remaining there until she died in 1949 …”For the full article, see the Journal page of our website: http://www.middlevillemuseum.org/journal
This story about the Kamloops Residental School is hurting my heart in such big way. it just makes me so mad and angry. As a kid I grew up in orphanage. I have seen it all how how kids were treated and the way I was treated.- Petya Lowes–One of The Children of Chernobyl
People call Canada the one of the greatest countries in the world, but we have our faults: slavery, British Home Children, imprisoning the Italian and Japanese during the second world war and the stories of The Residential Schools do not stop. One by one horrible facts come out and as my friend Kyle said: time for the memorials to stop- it’s over due time for fresh drinking water and liveable homes on the reserves etc. These residential schools were not to treat the children of natives better- they were to take the native out of the child and make them white to get rid of the native issues. There is no other answer.– none at all.
We are enlarging the education of the Indian children now growing up to be a reproach to the white population, or made useful members of society and capable of getting an honest and honorable livelihood for themselves and those depending upon them- Kamloops Industrial school-Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 22 Jul 1890, Tue • Page 1
It is very satisfactory to learn, as we do by correspondence in another column, that the Industrial School at Kamloops is succeeding so admirably. This excellent institution, established by a paternal Government to elevate the Indian races, is situated on a lovely spot on the South Thompson River, the buildings themselves being of modern design and admirably suited for the education.
We look far into the future and see the little girls now clustering about the Christian ladies who are teaching them the lessons of life becoming wives and mothers, and eating those truths which are the blessed inheritance of the white man, uplifting and broadening their character and aims; while one need not lie a prophet to predict that the day is not far distant when some of the boys who are now climbing the rough road to learning will emulate their fellows in the Northwest who have made names for themselves in the history of their native land.-Vancouver Daily World Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 22 Jul 1890, Tue
The Kamloops Industrial School was opened, under Roman Catholic administration, in 1890. It became the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system. Enrolment peaked in the early 1950s at 500. In 1910, the principal said that the government did not provide enough money to properly feed the students. In 1924 a portion of the school was destroyed by fire. In 1969, the federal government took over the administration of the school, which no longer provided any classes and operated it as residence for students attending local day schools until 1978, when the residence was closed. (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation)
The dilapidated wood-frame school was partly destroyed by fire in 1924 while a new main building was under construction, the structure that still stands today. Additions were made over the years. The exterior walls are made of local red brick with granite chimney caps, coping stones and detailing. Large timber trusses support the shingled roof, while a galvanized iron bell tower dominates the symmetrical design.
1925– An Indian department policy is expressed in the quarter of a million dollar Indian residential school, whose newly-completed brick and granite walls overlook the South Thompson River near Kamloops. Rising from the north bank and commanding a view of the sunny city across the river and of the rolling hills behind, it stands out from a perfect hillside background. Mount St. Paul and Mount St. Peter form a protection from the wind and add a touch of guardianship to the picture.
The Indian school has been designed as a large central educational and training headquarters as distinct from the small and numerous centres of the past. Centralization has succeeded the system of detached local units in British Columbia. Generally, the area from which the pupils will be drawn comprises Penticton, Westbank, Head Lake, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Tappen, Chase, Shuswap, Kamloops, Chu Chua, Davidson’s Creek, Bonaparte, Shulus, Coldwater, Douglas Lake, Quilchena and some points of the Lytton agency.
Two-thirds of the building is completed. In due course a boys’ wing will be added to the present units which consist of the administration building and girls’ wing. The building was designed by the architectural branch of the Indian department. The contractor of the central portion was Mr. Thomas Carson of Vancouver. Claydon Company of Winnipeg constructed the girls’ wing. Exclusive of furnishings, the cost to date rather exceeds $175,000.
The scheme in its entirety will cost approximately $250,000. Rev. Father James Macguire, O.M.I., whose zeal is manifested in every department of the school work, is the principal. The staff will consist of eight sisters of St. Annes, celebrated all over the country for their deep devotion to educating these children. There will also be a male instructor in agriculture and one in trades. The school has been designed under a three unit system, the administration block in the centre, girls’ wing on the east and boys’ wing on the west of brick and tile construction, the salient features of the design are brought out in granite.
Facing the visitor is the eighty-foot dining-room, seating 250. At the north end two rooms have been reserved for workmen’s dining-rooms. Two exits lead into the yard and playground. Next the large dining-room are two sculleries one for girls and the other for boys the former giving access to the minor kitchen wing containing the kitchen itself of 28 by 38 feet, a store, a dairy and pantry. There is nothing above the kitchen and this permits of the maximum amount of additional light and so allows or getting rid of all odours with glazed brick. All walls are lined with white There are also two staff dining rooms on the floor, each 24 by 15 feet.
I’ll never forgive the Catholic ‘ church for what they’ve done to my ‘ people,” said Bill Seward, 76, of Nanaimo. “When I spoke my language, I got ‘ punished, and there were a lot of times I went three or four days without food. That was my punishment,” said the ‘ former band chief. “I had to kneel in the corner, some- ; times all night. That’s how I got bad knees.”
To the immediate west is the boiler room, at a lower level. On the ground floor are the principal’s roomy offices and waiting-room, a parlour and staff rooms. Principal Macguire’s sitting-room and bedroom are here also and there are bathrooms and storerooms on the same floor also. The main corridor gives access to the chapel, as yet unequipped and with seating capacity for 250 and vestry with immediately adjacent two fire- escapes. On the first floor are the boys’ and girls’ infirmaries, with nurses’ rooms, bath, linen and general storerooms, ready for all contingencies. Passing through the connecting link, giving access from the administration building, the visitor finds himself in the girls’ wing. On the semi-basement floor are two staff bedrooms, with connecting bathroom, twelve children’s bathrooms, lavatories and washrooms. Under the recreation room is a particularly well laid out, splendidly equipped laundry and disinfecting room. On the ground floor of this wing are the sisters’ community room, girls’ (senior and junior) sewing-rooms; two large classrooms and four staff bedrooms, with bathrooms and toilets.
The first floor is devoted to dormitories, clothing-rooms and the necessary staff rooms for supervision. On the second floor are dormitories, staff bedrooms and staff duty rooms, so placed as to avoid or minimize supervision over the dormitories. The floors of the lavatories and washrooms are to avoid fires made out of terrazzo. Floors of corridors, dining-rooms, kitchen and stores and dairy are of asphaltic mastic.
Doors and trim generally are of British Columbia fir. Ceilings are of metal. In connection with such an institution the kitchen is of much importance that in this particular connection, one is not surprised to find a huge finely equipped refrigerator plant. Ice-making is also provided for. The water supply is self-contained, coming from the nearby river. Pumps have been installed to take care of both domestic and irrigation supplies. It is expected that another pumping unit will be added In the near future.
Children were forcibly removed from their homes once attendance became mandatory by law in the 1920s, with their parents under threat of prison if they refused. The children were not allowed to speak their native language nor practise their own spirituality. Many children ran away and some disappeared and died.
The farming land in connection with the school is approximately 160 acres, all capable of cultivation. Here are growing in profusion: Alfalfa corn beets potatoes, cabbages, while and vegetables. There are eighty head of cattle, many horses and hogs, turkeys and chickens by the hundred. There is a very fine barn, also carpenter and blacksmith shops, poultry houses, root and vegetable cellars. Here boys receive instruction in agriculture and such training as will enable them to carry out the necessary farming operations on their own land some day.
Girls’ training includes instruction in all domestic problems, including cooking, making butter, preserving fruits and vegetables, all branches of sewing and knitting and that general knowledge of domestic economy which will make them good Indian housewives of the future. At the beginning of September there will be about 150 pupils in residence. The complete scheme will afford accommodation to at least 250
A former student, who asked not to be named, said one of the brothers would come into the dorm two to three nights per week. He would crawl into bed with the boys, ‘ kissing and fondling them’. “When we heard him coming we’d say, who’s going to get it tonight?’ It was terrible,” said the man, who was molested by the brother.
“The ‘Heathen’ School opposite the Carleton Place Baptist Church is now in operation.”
What was a ‘Heathen School’? Was it a school dealing in Wicca? Is that where the Witches of Rochester Street got their education? The ‘Heathen School’ was built, in part, to convert the world through seeded evangelism. Carleton Place was not the only town that had one. People from so-called “heathen” nations would attend, learn to spread the gospel. Sons of some of the most prominent Aboriginal leaders of the time (many of mixed ancestry) received their education at the Foreign Mission School in Conn., later becoming distinguished members of their nations. It seems that Carleton Place felt it needed its own.