Say Magazine - - RESOURCE -

In this book the au­thor, Dou­glas Ste­wart, draws on a wide ex­panse of archival ma­te­rial to present a his­tory of a rel­a­tively large, but lit­tle-known, res­i­den­tial school that was op­er­ated by the Pres­by­te­rian Church in Canada (PCC) just out­side Regina from the end of the 19th and into the early 20th Cen­tury.

The Regina In­dian In­dus­trial School op­er­ated for nearly two decades, with First Na­tions’ chil­dren from Al­berta, Saskatchewan and Man­i­toba be­ing brought to the school to learn trades, with the mis­guided goal of “Chris­tian­iz­ing and civ­i­liz­ing” Indige­nous chil­dren. “In other words, to strip them or divorce them from their cul­tural homes, their back­grounds, their be­liefs and prac­tices,” said Ste­wart.

In the 1990s, Ste­wart - a now-re­tired Pro­fes­sor of Ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Regina - in­tro­duced res­i­den­tial school­ing in Canada to his cur­ricu­lum. “I felt that the Fac­ulty of Ed­u­ca­tion wasn’t re­ally deal­ing with that sub­ject in the 1990s,” said Ste­wart. While pre­par­ing to teach the unit, Ste­wart learned there had been a res­i­den­tial school just out­side Regina that op­er­ated from 1891 to 1910, but it wasn’t un­til only a few years ago Ste­wart re­ally be­gan delv­ing into the school’s his­tory.

When Ste­wart was ap­proached by the RIIS Com­mem­o­ra­tive As­so­ci­a­tion - an or­ga­ni­za­tion of Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous mem­bers ded­i­cated to the restora­tion and preser­va­tion of the school’s ceme­tery - Ste­wart knew he wanted to help and con­trib­ute his knowl­edge. “[I thought] it would help if the peo­ple in­volved knew some­thing about the his­tory of the school and its work­ings, and where the chil­dren came from, how they were treated in the school, and so on.” This sparked Ste­wart’s re­search into the school’s his­tory, and led to the writ­ing of his book.

The book took 2-1/2 years of in­tense re­search. Ste­wart combed through records from the Li­brary and Archives Canada in Ot­tawa, the archives of the United Church of Canada, the PCC Archives in Toronto, and the Pro­vin­cial Archives of Saskatchewan in Regina to learn as much as he could about the Regina In­dian In­dus­trial School.

Through his re­search, Ste­wart was able to un­cover valu­able pho­tos and ad­mis­sions reg­is­ters for the school, giv­ing names and faces to the stu­dents who were brought to the school through­out its op­er­a­tion. But, un­for­tu­nately Ste­wart was un­able to give them their voices. “Dur­ing all the archival re­search I did, I was al­ways on the look­out for a let­ter, a com­ment or an im­pres­sion writ­ten by some of the stu­dents, but I didn’t find a sin­gle thing,” said Ste­wart. Ap­prox­i­mately 500 stu­dents in to­tal at­tended the school dur­ing its op­er­a­tion, 150 at any given time.

Ste­wart’s book has al­ready started be­ing used as a text­book in sev­eral classes at the Univer­sity of Regina, and sev­eral copies are be­ing used in both pub­lic and sep­a­rate schools in Regina. Ste­wart and the RIIS Com­mem­o­ra­tive As­so­ci­a­tion also gifted one copy to each of the roughly 40 First Na­tion com­mu­ni­ties from which chil­dren had been re­cruited; a gift that was very im­por­tant to Ste­wart, and that he said he felt needed to be done.

Ste­wart is con­tin­u­ing his re­search on the school. He hopes to cre­ate an ex­panded ver­sion if the book goes to print for a sec­ond time.

The Regina In­dian In­dus­trial School (1891-1910): His­tor­i­cal Over­view and Chrono­log­i­cal Nar­ra­tive is avail­able at http://www.bench­mark­ and se­lect re­tail­ers.

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