Source: Bryce, Peter H. “Report on the Indian Residential Schools of Manitoba and the North-West Territories” Ottawa: 1907.
Department of Indian Affairs, Ottawa, June 19, 1907.
Frank Pedley, Esq., Deputy Supt. General of Indian Affairs, Ottawa.
Sir, — I have the honour to submit my report on the Indian schools of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.
Your obedient servant,
P. H. BRYCE, Chief Medical Officer.
REPORT ON THE INDIAN SCHOOLS OF MANITOBA AND THE NORTH-WEST TERRITORIES
The story of the early explorations and of the trading adventures of the French and English on the plains of the great Northwest has ever been one of exceeding interest to the people of Canada; but while filled with romance and important as illustrating how the great domain has gradually been brought under the dominion of the British Crown, it nevertheless is largely lacking as a record of the more silent, yet more potent, influences which for over a century have been at work transforming the Indian aborigines into members of a civilized society and loyal subjects of the King. Restrained through diplomacy, force and the interests of trade by the great fur-trading companies, the widely distributed and wandering bands of Indians would still have been savages, had it ‘not been for the heroic devotion of those missionaries who, attaching themselves to some band, moved with it in its wanderings, or travelled from post to post where the Indians were assembled while bartering their furs.
The evolution of schools amongst the Indian population of the Northwest naturally begins with the efforts of the early missionaries to obtain an influence over the Indians through the education and guidance of the children. The Roman Catholic Church as early as 1817 sent its first missionary into this extensive region and its work has been extended to far within the Arctic Circle, reaching even to the Northern Ocean. Co-incident with its work has been that of the Church of England, whose missionaries, locating near some Hudson’s Bay Company’s trading post, have covered, through the work of the Church of England Missionary Society, the entire Northwest to Fort McPherson and the Yukon. To illustrate — the first Anglican mission was established at Winnipeg in 1820, Dynevor in 1833, Cumberland in 1840, Lac la Ronge in 1840, Battleford in 1876, the Blood Mission in 1880, Fort Simpson in 1858, Fort McPherson in 1874, and Rampart House in 1882. The British Methodist Church began its labours by establishing missions on Lake Winnipeg at Norway House and Berens River in 1856, gradually extending westward as far as the Stony reserve in the foothills of the Rockies. The Presbyterian Church, latest in the field, started a mission at Prince Albert in 1867. The stories of hardship and of danger endured by these missionaries of the Cross have been but incidentally told, but the results are shown in the list of missions and of day schools in existence when this enormous territory passed into the hands of the Dominion of Canada in 1870. The lists are very incomplete, but a published report shows that 20 Roman Catholic schools and 5 Church of England schools received in 1877 some financial aid from the Dominion government. The following statement, taken from a report published in 1897, gives the total grants made by the government to the schools of the different churches in the years 1877, 1886, 1896 and 1906:—
I Southeastern Manitoba Augusts, 1871.
II Lake Manitoba ( south ) August 21, 1871 .
III Northwest Angle Octobers, 1873.
IV Qu’Appelle District September^, 1874.
V Lake Winnipeg September 24, 1875.
VI Fort Pitt September 9, 1876.
VII Blackfoot District September 22, 1877.
As the terms of all these treaties were much the same, some of the particulars may be quoted;
They provided: —
1st. That sufficient land be reserved to give 160 acres to each family of 5.
2nd. For prohibiting the sale of intoxicants.
3rd. A present of three dollars per capita to the Indians on the reserve.
4th. That schools would be provided for the Indians.
At Confederation in 1867 it was agreed that the Indian Department should contribute an amount equal to that contributed by the Methodist Church for schools in Ontario and Quebec, provided the sum did not exceed $1,000. Hence it was natural and easy, apart from treaty engagements, for the government to extend this principle to the schools of the newly acquired Northwest Territories. There appears a memorandum, of Sir John A. Macdonald, dated October 19, 1880, fixing the salary of $300 to be given each day school teacher in Manitoba and the Territories. It also states that if the attendance should fall short of 25 in any quarter, the teacher should be paid at a per capita rate of $3 per quarter; in the case of non-denominational schools, it was considered that teachers should be paid a maximum salary of $504, or at the rate of $12 per annum for 42 pupils; if the attendance be short of this number, the teacher should receive $3 per pupil for the quarter. The same memorandum provided prizes or bonuses to the teachers of the five best conducted schools in Manitoba and the North-west.
In the annual report for 1881, Commissioner Dewdney states : — ‘There are now 20 schools and missions in the Northwest Territories, 12 of which are receiving government aid; 9 are Church of England, 6 Roman Catholic, 4 Canada Methodist, and 1 Presbyterian. There are now 11 school-houses under construction or completed, for which teachers will be required during the coming season. We find considerable difficulty in securing teachers for schools where the number of children is small and is not likely to increase to an extent sufficient to make the per capita remuneration attractive, and I would recommend that in these cases a fixed sum be granted, say two-thirds (2/3) of the maximum allowed by order in council of 19th October, 1880.’ The same report shows that grants were paid to the following additional schools, 10 of which were in Superintendent Graham’s inspectorate: —
- Little Saskatchewan.
- Ebb and Flow.
- Lake St. Martin.
- Black River.
- Berens River.
- Fisher Lake.
- Eagle Hill .
- Isle a la Crosse.
- Onion Lake.
Inspector Graham says in the same report: ‘I find it very difficult to secure the services of competent teachers for the schools in Treaties 3 and 5 owing to the difficulty of getting there and the high prices charged for provisions, &c., and being cut off from any mail communication.’
The total amount paid by the government as salaries to teachers that year in these 31 schools was $3,227.50, or roughly, $100 per school.
In the same appendix may be found items for building materials and for erecting buildings at several points.
These quotations serve very well to indicate the embryonic condition of the Indian school system, if it may be so called, in the Northwest, and regarding which the adoption in 1884 of the industrial school idea seems to have been a necessary growth.
Such was the general condition when in 1879 Mr. N. T. Davin was appointed commissioner to report on the establishment of industrial schools in the Northwest. A comprehensive report, dated March 14, 1879, was the result of his investigations. In his conclusions he says: — ‘I should recommend at once an extensive application of the principle of industrial boarding schools in the Northwest, were it not that the population is so largely migratory that any great outlay at present would be money thrown away.’ He also recommends —
1st. Wherever the missionaries have schools, those schools should be utilized by the government if possible; that is to say, a contract should be made with the religious body controlling the school to board, educate and train industrially a certain number of pupils.
2nd. Not more than four industrial schools should be established at first.
3rd. That one be established at the junction of the north and south Saskatchewan near Prince Albert, under the Episcopal Church.
4th. Advises one near Old Fort Bow, near the Stonies and Blackfeet.
5th. Advises that there be one at Qu’Appelle under the Konian Catholic Church.
6th. Advises that there be one established on Hiding Mountain, under the Presbyterian Church.
The report says : —‘The importance of denominational schools at the outset must be obvious……… Where, however, the poor Indian has been brought face to face with polemics and settlements are divided, or think they are divided, on metaphysical niceties, the school should be, as at the White Earth Agency, Minnesota, undenominational.’ It further advises ‘that, as bands become more amenable to the restraints of civilization, education should be made compulsory.’ Also that ‘the character of the teacher, morally and intellectually, is a matter of vital importance; if he is morally weak, whatever his intellectual qualifications may be, he is worse than no teacher at all; if he is poorly instructed or feeble in brain, he only acts every day an elaborate farce.’ The report also advises competent inspection and that special advantages be given to boys and girls showing special aptitudes, and finally that, ‘the salary of a teacher must be such as will induce good men to offer themselves’…….. ‘in the future when the manual labour boarding schools are established institutions, these teachers, who manage these schools in a manner toward self-support, should have a percentage in the reduction in the cost of management.’
The report formed the basis, apparently, of the action taken subsequently in 1883, when a grant of $44,000 was made by parliament to establish three industrial schools.
In the annual report of 1881, Commissioner Dewdney states that he hopes to have selections made of localities for the three proposed industrial schools.
On July 19, 1883, an order in council was passed adopting the recommendation of a report of the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs by the Deputy, Mr. Vankoughnet, in which it was ordered : —
1st. That the Government buildings at Battleford be at once utilized for the purpose of a Protestant institution, and that the Rev. T. Clark be appointed principal at a salary of $1,200.
2nd. That the staff consist of an assistant to the principal, a matron, a farmer and a cook, and that the assistant be a layman.
3rd. That the Commissioner determine whether the pupils be taken from one tribe, or independently from all the bands in a given area.
4th. That the Commissioner be charged with the duty of seeing that the buildings are fitted up.
5th. The minister recommends that a Roman Catholic industrial school at or near Qu’Appelle be established with the same staff as at Battleford, and that the selection of the principal be left with the Archbishop of St. Boniface.
6th. The minister also recommends that a Roman Catholic industrial school be established at some point in Treaty 7, and that the selection of the principal be left to the Bishop of St. Albert.
7th. That the Commissioner’s attention be especially drawn to the confidential report of Mr. M. F. Davin on the subject.
The maintenance of the industrial schools from the period of their establishment in 1884 was assumed wholly by the department; while on October 22, 1892, an order in council was passed, intended to regulate the matter of their expenses. This document, which since then has governed generally the management of the industrial schools, is so important that it is inserted here: —
The following is a copy of the order in council of October 22, 1892, providing for the carrying on of industrial schools in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories: —
‘On a report dated 17th October, 1892,^ from the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs stating that it is advisable to make a change in the manner of carrying on those industrial schools in the Northwest that are wholly supported by the government. The cost of those institutions is larger, it is thought, than that for which they might be conducted, and with a view to more economical management it is advisable and necessary to adopt some method which would relieve the pressure of the present expenditure and at the same time keep up the schools to an equal standard of efficiency and usefulness.’
‘The minister considers that when the whole cost of an institution is directly borne by the government the same economy by those in immediate charge is not used as would be employed under other conditions. Demands, under the present system, are frequently made for articles and supplies, whereas if the amount to be expended were to take the form more of an annual per capita grant, more effort in the way of economizing would be made.’
‘The minister states that the actual cost to the government, as shown under the head of industrial schools, does not represent the total expenditure which the present system entails, as there is a small expense in the purchasing and inspection of supplies to be added.’
‘ The accounts for the past year (1890-91) show that the per capita cost of each child at the industrial schools under consideration was: —
Qu’Appelle $134 67
High River $185.55
‘The rate per capita, it is thought, is higher than it would be if a forced system of economy were exercised, and that the best way to effect the desired decrease would be to place the schools under a per capita grant system similar to that now in operation at Elkhorn and St. Paul’s under Church of England authorities, St. Boniface and Kootenay under Roman Catholic Church authorities. The per capita system under which these schools are operated by religious bodies has been found to work satisfactorily.’
‘ The minister therefore recommends that the following be applied to the industrial schools in operation in the Northwest Territories, and to such other similar institutions as may hereafter be established, as soon as, in the opinion of the Indian Department, said institutions are in proper running order, at rates to be fixed upon as being fair and just, viz. :
1. ‘The buildings are to be kept in repair jointly by the government and the man-agreement, the former to furnish the material and the latter to perform the labour.
2. ‘All books and appliances, that is, maps, globes, &c., for educational purposes, to be furnished by the government.
(3) ‘All charges for maintenance, salaries and expenses to be paid by the management, out of the per capita grant.
(4) The management not in any event to charge children or their parents for being allowed to attend such institutions.
(5) ‘The government to pay to the management an annual grant for each pupil up to the number authorized by the Indian Department, as represented by the commissioner, at the following rates : —
High River $130.00
(6) ‘For this consideration the management shall agree to conform to the rules of the Indian Department, as laid down from time to time, and to keep the schools at a certain standard of instruction, dietary and domestic comfort, and that the inspectors and officers of the Indian Department may at any time inspect and report upon the institutions.
(7) ‘Payment to be made only for children authorized by the commissioner to be admitted, and in accordance with the scale now governing payments to schools under the per capita system, which may be altered from time to time to suit circumstances,’ and no children, white or Indian, are to be admitted save under authority of the com-
(8) ‘The minister deems it desirable to put this system into operation after a reasonable time is given to the Church authorities, and he recommends that the first of July, 1898, be fixed as the date upon which the per capita allowances shall commence to be payable.
The committee submit the above for Your Excellency’s approval.’
In addition to the per capita grant, the following concessions have been made to schools established under the above order in council : —
1. That account books, stationery and an allowance for postage will be given those institutions.
2. That strict accounts of all expenditure incurred on behalf of each school, supported by vouchers, will be required by the department to be kept in each institution, and at the expiration of each year, a revision of the rate of capitation may be made should it appear that such a step is considered necessary.
3. In the event of pupils over and above the number already authorized and estimated for on the capitation system, being admitted into a school, and for whom no provision has been made, beds for occupation by such additional pupils are to be given by the department, if they cannot be made in the institution.
4. In the event of the erection of new buildings at the expense of the department becoming necessary, the cost of the heating apparatus to be included in such cost.
5. Agricultural and other implements, when considered by the department as being unfit for further use, may be disposed of by the officers of the institution in such manner as may be thought proper by them.
6. The department will agree to provide sufiicient grazing land for use of each institution.
7. The department agrees to provide sufficient fencing material for the first inclosure [sic] required, but the fences must be renewed at the expense of the institution.
8. Medical attendance as directed by the commissioner for the pupils of each institution will be provided and paid for by the department.
9. An advance of a sum to be agreed upon will, until further advice, be made by the department to each institution at the commencement of each quarter, to admit of the current expenses of that quarter being defrayed.
Such then was the beginning of what may be called secondary school education amongst the Indians of the Northwest, and this, as will be noticed, was coincident with the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, which was completed across the prairie and which event the commissioner states would facilitate the movement of pupils and supplies.
Reverting to the boarding and industrial school attendance, it is found that a remarkable change has taken place in the relative numbers, during the past six years.
THE CONDITION OF THE SCHOOLS ON INSPECTION
According to instructions I visited the industrial and boarding schools of Manitoba and the Territories, during the months of March, April and May, inspecting 35 in all and omitting the Pine Creek and Sandy Bay boarding schools in Manitoba, and those of Kenora and Cecilia Jeffrey in Ontario, which could not be reached on account of freshets and ice. Neither were the schools at Fort Chipewyan and Wabiscow Lake visited. Summarized details with regard to the several schools will he found in tables VII. and VIII. of this report, and in yet more detail in the original notes herewith transmitted. As might be expected from the history of the schools, very great differences exist, first in the age and character of the buildings, and secondly in the internal school and dormitory space and in their sanitary and general equipment. But as regards the general efficiency and even the health of the children, it has been found that the extent of the buildings, and even the number of the staff, are by no means necessarily the measure of the success of any particular school either as regards the
numbers in attendance, the health of the pupils or the discipline and effectiveness of
THE INDUSTRIAL SCHOOLS
The industrial schools now in operation, the details of the inspection of which will be found in table VII., appended to this report, are eight in number, and, as has been already pointed out, have been carried on, some of them since 1884 at the cost of the government, and with a large aggregate annual expenditure. The total amount expended upon those in operation was $134,635.98 in 1905-6. The original idea seems to have been to have them fairly convenient to the railway, and yet at points about which there would be a group of reserves, and from which their pupils were to be drawn.
As has been already statistically pointed out, there has been a very notable falling off in the number of pupils since 1901, and this tendency seems rather to increase than diminish. The reasons seem chiefly to be: —
1. The distance of the schools from the reserves.
2. The ineffectiveness of the staff in several instances.
3. The lack in practical success of the pupils after graduation.
4. The dependence of the number of pupils upon the co-operation of the staff’s of the boarding schools and upon the canvassing activity of the principals of the industrial schools.
5. The lack of interest of Indian agents in schools at great distances from their particular reserves.
6. The dislike of the parents to have their children so far from home.
7. The great increase and enlargement of the boarding schools on or near the reserves.
With, perhaps, the exception of that of Brandon school, every principal expressed the same opinion regarding the difficulty of obtaining and retaining pupils, and all seem to feel that the obligation, in practice if not in theory, which is placed upon them of gathering pupils is not only disagreeable, but is further one which takes them from their proper duties as administrators of the school. However much force there may be in this contention, the fact yet remains that it is only in four instances, those of Qu’Appelle, High River, and Brandon and Elkhorn, that the schools as regards either numbers or effectiveness can be said to have held their own, and that it is only in those that efficient staffs, energetic principals and good discipline are to be found. When so remarkable and successful a principal as Rev. Father Naessens, of High River, has to say that he finds it difficult to maintain the number of his pupils, although situated within the area whence he can draw from three of the largest reserves, the Blackfeet, Bloods and Peigans, on all of which there are Roman Catholic boarding schools, and when he says he is now convinced that his school in order to do the best for his pupils, ought, contrary to his former view, to be situated on or adjoining some reserve, it seems evident that with boarding schools increasing in numbers and in efficiency, the successful continuation of the industrial schools under the present form must become increasingly difficult and expensive.
THE BOARDING SCHOOLS
The origin and history of these schools, which have grown up as it were between the two original types of schools, the day and the industrial, is most interesting and instructive. The details of the inspection of these schools will be found in table VIII., appended to this report. A reference to table I will show that in 1886 scarcely a single boarding school existed and that to-day we find their number to be 38, with a total cost to the department of $98,688, and the total pupils 1905-6, 1,739 as compared with (see tables III. and IV.) 694 in 74 day schools, and 693 in 8 industrial schools. It seems evident, therefore, that there are in these boarding schools some strong essentially vital forces which have enabled them to force their way into their present dominant position. Summarized, these seem to be : —
1. Their location on, or in immediate proximity to, some Indian reserve.
2. That with a few exceptions they have attached to them considerable tracts of land, and are engaged in some instances even more successfully than the industrial schools in agricultural operations and practical outdoor work.
3. That their principals or some members of their establishment, being usually missionaries, are more or less constantly and closely in touch with the parents, whose children are to keep up the supply of pupils, and who, if they be of the right spirit, are constantly cultivating an interest in and sympathy for the school amongst the members of the band, such as is impossible for the principals of industrial schools unassociated with the reserves and long distances from them.
4. The influence of a good master and spiritual adviser follows him, the pupil, to the reserve, where he is encouraged and directed in establishing himself in his future occupation on the reserve.
5. The usually smaller schools, less complex in their organization, possess more of the elements of the family life of a home, and necessarily the influence of the principal, matron and staff is greater in the degree that their personality enters into the life of the pupil.
THE HEALTH OF THE PUPILS OF THE INDUSTRIAL AND BOARDING SCHOOLS
When we know that it is only within the last ten years that what is known as the ‘medical inspection of schools’ has been undertaken in the largest urban populations of this continent, it might be said that it is not to be wondered at that in our Indian schools but little of this work could hitherto have been expected. But the circumstances in the two cases are quite different. In the public school everywhere the child returns to its parents at night and they are naturally chiefly responsible for its health. On the other hand; our industrial and boarding schools have been for the full term of residence in them the home of the child and for his health the staff of the school is immediately responsible. Not only so, but this fact has been recognized by the government, which has for many years appointed and paid medical officers for supervising the health of the children. Nevertheless, it was natural, under what may be termed the accidental circumstances under which, especially the day and boarding schools were begun, and owing to the lack of any system under which they came under government inspection that those teachers accustomed daily to mingling with the Indians in camp would not exercise any fine discrimination as to the degree of health of those admitted to the school. When in addition, in almost every instance, it was found difficult to maintain the school attendance up to the number allowed upon which the per capita payment was made, it is not surprising that cases of scrofula and other forms of constitutional disease were admitted into the schools. Such cases, under the defective sanitary condition of many schools, especially tubercular, has spread, whether through direct infection from person to person or indirectly through the infected dust of floors, school-rooms and dormitories. That the actual situation has not been fully realized, either by the staffs of the schools or by the medical officers except in a few instances is shown by the reports received from month to month and year to year by the department. This fact was fully borne out by my own experience during the recent inspection. Principals and teachers and even physicians were at times inclined to question or minimize the dangers of infection from scrofulous or consumptive pupils and nothing less than peremptory instructions as to how to deal with cases of disease existing in the schools will eliminate this ever-present danger of infection.
One of my special instructions was to obtain a statistical statement of the past history and present condition of the health of the children who have been pupils at the different schools. A list of questions was, therefore, left with each principal, requiring that they be answered and sent directly to my address in Ottawa. It is to be regretted that more have not, up to date, been received, but the following table from fifteen schools supplies much valuable information and food for thought.
What further was very noticeable was the almost complete absence of any drill or manual exercises amongst the boys or calisthenics or breathing exercises amongst the girls. One would suppose that in boarding schools the need for such exercises would be looked upon as an elementary necessity; but it was found that it was only in some isolated cases that it had every been heard of or put into practice. And yet the disciplinary value of such exercises, apart wholly from their health value, is so obvious that one was not surprised at the remark of that remarkable woman the Mother Superior of the St. Albert Orphanage, who said that the musical tambourine drill (which I had the pleasure of witnessing) was the first means she had discovered of making the Indian children stand erect and raise their eyes. Perhaps however, remembering the very varied types of teachers, the difficulty often experienced in obtaining permanent ones of high quality, and the sources from which they are drawn, it may be expecting too much to suppose that so elementary a necessity of school hygiene as physical exercises should have been a regular part of the course in these schools.
PETER H. BRYCE,
Chief Medical Officer
OTTAWA, June 19, 1907.