Remembering Wawanosh Home for Girls in Sault Ste. Marie

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Girls attending Wawanosh Girls Home

Sault Ste. Marie was home to two Anglican residential/day schools: The Wawanosh Home for Girls, and the Shingwauk Home for Boys.

The Wawanosh Home for Girls opened on August 19, 1879 with 14 girls in residence.

A stone plaque now stands at the site of what used to be the Home for Girls on Great Northern Road.  Now, the site is home to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25.

The plaque states, “the Rev. E. F. Wilson founded the first home for Indian girls on this site, August 19, 1879. It was named Wawanosh Home in honor of Chief Wawanosh, meaning White Goose.”

Julia Waundee, 13 year old student at Wawanosh Home for Girls

Rev. Wilson accepted 78 girls during the first five years of the school’s existence. A 1883 study showed that eighty-three per cent of the girls who had attended the school had either died or left the Wawanosh Home in less than five years.

Only one girl remained there the full five years.

A similar plaque to the one found on Great Northern Road can be found on the front lawn of Algoma University, formerly Shingwauk.

Ahead of the virtual ceremony at Shingwauk Residential School this past Friday, in honour of the discovery of the mass grave in Kamloops, the plaque on the grounds acknowledging the Rev. Edward Francis Wilson was vandalized, leaving streaks of orange paint on the inscribed stone.

According to Krista McCracken, researcher and curator for Algoma University, at least 72 children, some as young as five years old, died at Shingwauk school and have been buried in its cemetery.

The Wawanosh Home for Girls had been in operation for 18 years, when a new addition was built for the school in 1900.  It was discovered that they had no way to heat the new building, and the girl’s school was moved to a new facility at the Shingwauk site.

Students outside the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, in Sault Ste. Marie, in 1955. (Courtesy of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, Algoma University)

In 1935, the two schools, Wawanosh Home for Girls, and the Shingwauk Home for Boys were merged to create the Shingwauk Indian Residential school, which was housed in a new building.

Understanding the purpose of these institutions can be found in the letters of our “founding fathers.”

Duncan Campbell Scott first joined the federal Department of Indian Affairs in 1879, and steadily rose through the ranks of early confederate Canada.  He was appointed deputy superintendent in 1913, and held the post until 1932. In this role, Scott became the highest-ranking cabinet member on matters concerning Indigenous affairs, and played a central role in both Treaty 9, and the expansion of the residential school system.

“It is readily acknowledged that Indian children lose their natural resistance to illness by habitating so closely in these schools, and that they die at a much higher rate than in their villages.  But this alone does not justify a change in policy of this department, which is being geared towards the final solution of our Indian Problem,” Scott responds to the alarming death rates in the residential schools in 1910.

Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada and Father of Confederation is also quoted as follows:

“When the school is on the reserve, the child lives with its parents, who are savages, and though he may learn to read and write, his habits and training mode of thought are Indian.  He is simply a savage who can read and write.  It has been strongly impressed upon myself, as head of the Department, that Indian Children should be withdrawn as much as possible from parental influence, and the only way to do that would be to put them in central training industrial schools where they will acquire the habits and modes of thought of white men.”  Sir John A. Macdonald.

Recently, a statue of Egerton Ryerson, a Canadian Minister, educator and prominent contributor to the Canadian Residential School System,  was knocked down by members of the community calling for reconciliation.  The head of the statue is displayed on a stake at 1492 Land back Lane in Caledonia.

These are the principles that this Country was built on.  Eradication and Indigenous genocide was the goal in the creation of Canada.  Many are calling for “Canada Day” to take on the real meaning of what confederation brought for Canadians, and that is genocide and colonization.

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. These were not ‘unfortunate incidents’ we allowed our leaders to stop short at a disingenious apology & a big bag of money.. these are not burial sites, these are ‘crime-scenes’, war-crimes & crimes against humanity.

    We must not allow our leaders to continue to help ‘them’ cover up this ongoing slaughter & democide against our people.. we can not allow, assist or trust the Canadian Government to ‘investigate’ itself.

    It’s time to abolish the ‘Indian Act’ & initiate an international war-crimes tribunal.. It’s time to bring our children home & hold our leaders accountable for the atrocities they’ve committed, just sayin’.

    Strange daze indeed..

  2. As a descendant of my grandmother (Laura Beesaw) an Ojibway who attended Shingwauk along with her siblings we cannot find any records anywhere of her sister ( Emiline) who was 2 years older also attended Shingwauk ?? Either died at residential school or shortly after cant find any burial sites through any church records of her. When they first attended they could not speak English . I guess my grandmother was considered a success case , after in life she hid her culture or speaking her language, my father who also hid speaking Ojibway(was not passed down to me) her son I can only imagine the pain and heart ache hiding his mothers heritage the most important woman that gives you life as in all cultures,. I am almost the last at 70 this gives a name to the missing of when this all began

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