Fifty Years On. From Shingwauk to Algoma University


Established in 1965, Algoma University has been on a journey towards self-discovery since before the notion, was even born. It starts with a story, as many things do.. rising with the winds that blew through the white pines of a sacred place. A place where a man called Chief Little Pine, would wander as he lived and breathed his calling. Chief Shingwaukhonse, who lived from 1773-1854, would go on to champion education as a fundamental right for his people, building a teaching wigwam or “shingwauk’ with his native band and an Anglican Church mission in 1833. On that same site, is where the history of Algoma University would unfold.

The Shingwauk Project, a first nations communities & Algoma U collaboration, shares the following history and is taken from
.“The Shingwauk School, or “Teaching Wigwam”, was originally envisaged by the great Ojibway Chief Shingwaukonse (1773-1854), also known as Shingwauk, as a crucible for cross-cultural understanding and for synthesis of traditional Anishnabek and modern European knowledge and learning systems. Commissioned in 1832 in co-operation with Canadian Government and Anglican Church partners as part of St. John’s Mission to the Ojibway, the Shingwauk School was opened in Sault Ste. Marie in 1833. It relocated to Garden River (1838-74), and to the current site as the Shingwauk and algoma-u1Wawanosh Industrial Homes (Shingwauk 1874-1935 and Wawanosh 1876/96-1935) and the Shingwauk Indian Residential School (1935-70). As part of Chief Shingwauk’s new strategy of Aboriginal rights, selfdetermination and modern community development, the School’s cross-cultural educational project was also regarded as essential to the restoration of cosmological balance and of social harmony between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, and between both Peoples and the natural environment.”
A recently retired, Professor Emeritus Don Jackson, Law & Politics, Algoma University, took those of us in attendance on Saturday,January 24th, on a journey of discovery that did indeed, invoke memories of the ‘spiritual’ that moved within the place. It is clear to see that Prof Don Jackson found kindred spirits when he made his way to Sault Ste. Marie, in the early 1970’s.
algoma-u-4Don Jackson shared “After graduate studies at the University of Toronto, I found my way here..I’d never really heard of Sault Ste.Marie,or at least I didn’t know too much about it.” He went on to say “I fell in love with Algoma”

Don Jackson has seen the transformation of Algoma University from the early 1970’s til this time in history. “In 1971, Algoma College (later University) would outgrow her home at Sault College. Growth in students seeking out Algoma U started growing and really hasn’t stopped since. “ Prof. Jackson said “We’ve had some growing pains, but that’s a good thing. “ and “Out of struggles comes good.” “Honouring the past, moving forward with a legacy that would seek to educate all people.” said Prof. Jackson.

“There are 130 buildings (residential schools) across the country.” and “these building are sacred spaces, and using them takes great care and responsibility”. said Prof Jackson.
The Diocese of Algoma, Anglican Church is also an important part of the narrative of Algoma U. Archival information is available at the following link.

algoma u

The photograph above, & exerpts below are taken from Archives, Algoma Diocese, Anglican Church.
“In 1832, the Province of Upper Canada decided to establish a mission at Sault Ste. Marie for religious education and vocational training Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Colborne, a devout Anglican,recruited a divinity student, William McMurray, to carry out this task on behalf of the government.
A combined schoolhouse and church, dubbed a “teaching wigwam,” was built about 1833 at nearby Garden River, with Mr.McMurray in charge.
algoma-u-3September 22nd, 1873 saw the formal opening of the Shingwauk Industrial Home, with an enrolment of sixteen boys.

Rev. Wilson purchased a 90-acre site 4 km east of the town’s centre, on the shores of the St. Mary’s River which was the major waterway linking Lakes Huron and Superior. His Excellency the Earl of Dufferin, Governor General of Canada, was touring the Upper Great Lakes at the time and visited the school site on July 31st, 1874 to lay its corner stone. This was to be the permanent location for the Shingwauk Home (and successor buildings) for the next 100 years.

The new Shingwauk Home was formally opened August 2nd, 1875 by Bishops Hellmuth of Huron and Fauquier of Algoma. The latter diocese, newly formed in 1873, would have a close relationship with this Anglican school throughout its history. Rev. E.F. Wilson served as the school’s first principal, in charge of 50 boys mostly drawn from Ojibway settlements at nearby Garden River and distant Walpole Island, Sarnia and Muncey.
• 1889 A baseball club, known as the Buckskin Club, is formed at Shingwauk
• 1900 New Wawanosh Home for Girls opens at the Shingwauk (St. Mary’s River) site.
• 1935 New Shingwauk Indian Residential School, designed for 140 pupils, opens October 3rd..
• 1950s Residential students offered secondary education in local public high schools. Pupils in senior elementary grades gradually attend city schools.
• 1966 School adopts new name, Shingwauk Hall. Enrolment drops to 90. School choir performs at multi-faith service held at the Sault Armouries, on the occasion of the visit by the Most Rev. Dr. M. Ramsay, Archbishop of Canterbury.”

On June 11th,2008, the Federal Government of Canada would offer an apology to First Nations communities and individual survivors of Residential Schools across Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was struck, and given a mandate to move forward into spaces and places, planning gatherings, events and more, seeking to understand, with collective wisdom of a new time and place in history. June 2015, will see the Formal Release of Truth & Reconciliation Report.
For more information & background about the TRC, visit
From wigwam school shingwauk, to Anglican mission school, to federal government residential school, to a 1975 brokered deal with Garden River First Nation & The Algoma Diocese of Algoma to continue a legacy on a sacred site, to the 50th year anniversary of the inception of Algoma University. .

Professor Emeritus Don Jackson concluded his lecture saying ”Through the history of this sacred place, and indeed other sacred places, we must learn to live in the environment, in the land, in the place “ adding “We can’t just seek to live on a place”.


Dr. Rick Myers,who became president of Algoma University in 2010, shared an announcement about an address. An address that will now formally be adopted as Algoma U’s very own . 1 Shingwauk Drive.
As the 50th anniversary year continues, Dr. Myers shared that “there will be a call at some point for ideas for future naming of buildings or thoroughfares on the campus of Algoma University.” Dr.Rick Myers further shared that “the public will be invited again for lectures as the anniversary year continues.”

Way up in Paynton Saskatchewan there is a school called “Chief Little Pine School”, Treaty Six, First Natlons Education Collective with 11 schools, 1800 students, and more.
Chief Shingwaukhonse “Little Pine” continues to inspire generations that come after him. To educate live, in and amongst the white pines. Watch for the signs.
To learn more about Algoma university, visit