Cecilia Jeffery’s Indian Residential School

As previously mentioned, we have returned to Treaty 13 territory. I would like to acknowledge the many biases and privileges that exist from my lived experiences that I will seek to eliminate throughout my post(s). 

Miigwetch for your patience while I take some time to re-group after our month long trip. I would also like to note that this post has been delayed for a few reasons – primarily that I am not sure how to share this experience. My intentions remain trying to learn and piece together parts of Residential Schools that I was unaware of, while seeking to highlight these issues for others. . . However, I feel an added pressure having recently met some individuals who attended the schools I have visited. There is a feeling of “what and how am I doing? Why am I writing and sharing? Is it right??” To draw a parallel of recently witnessing a fatal accident, the context of “fatal accident” now mean something more, more emotionally charged. Similarly, hearing from individuals who attended IRS, or those whose loved ones attended IRS puts a whole new series of deeper emotions on the table for me. And in some cases, these experiences are located at the school sites we visited.
Though I feel the following blog on Cecilia Jeffery’s IRS is surface level to the information I’ve recently learned exists, I remain unable to conquer all of this information within reasonable time frames. . . #lifetimegoals. It is not my place to do them justice and share their stories but I still feel like it is an important place for me to share my time, research, and experiences to shed some light on a surface level discussion that Indian Residential Schools often is.

Reflecting back in time, we visited the two sites of Cecilia Jeffery’s IRS on June 23rd and June 25th. On June 23rd, after a busy day already, we grabbed a bite to eat and found ourselves confused as to the whereabouts of Cecilia Jeffery IRS (CJ). We researched for an hour or so and discovered that there would be a memorial not far down the road (we also researched McIntosh IRS but realized we likely passed its area the day prior in Vermilion Bay).

We drove down the main roads of Kenora, with dark dark darkkkk clouds rolling around in the sky. We pulled up to the Treaty 3 Council and stood atop the all too familiar landscape – again, the school was located atop a hill, right by the waterway. There was a memorial present and we said some prayers for those that had been subjected to CJ IRS and those that may be resting there. As it started to absolutely pour, my tears ran down too. I couldn’t help but think of all the children who had been rendered invisible all this time – the pain and suffering they endured. The site we were at was the second location of the school, located closer to a city center (Kenora, ON). Looking at photos, we were standing right where the school used to stand from 1929 to 1974 (torn down in 76).

Students at the school were part of a flour experiment,CJ like those at St. Mary’s IRS, however CJ’s experiment looked at education and its effects on healthy eating. In addition, kids were part of an ear infection drug trial. One of the parts of this ear infection treatment suggested that it was effective to boil water to 110 degrees and irrigate the ear; as a nurse, that is scortching hot water and not recommended treatment (which I imagine was learned after kids started going deaf)! Here is a video featuring Richard Green, a residential school Survivor, at the commemorative site and time of Presbyterian Church apology. I find a comment interesting from the reporter that the Canadian gov’t believe(d) their 2008 apology was supposed to apologize for any and all harms caused by residential schools – seems rather closed minded and non-reconciling.

I have never listened to much by Gord Downie but have an incredible appreciation for his work and allyship pertaining to Indigenous peoples (and obviously so do many people because he’s been appointed to Order of Canada). Throughout my research I stumbled upon his 2016 album released related to Chanie Wenjack, a 12 year old boy, forced into CJ, who passed away fleeing the school – have a look at a little clip about this brave, scared, lonely, young boy @ Canadian Heritage Moment of CJ.

I am not certain as to whether the information about the experiments and such were limited to the second location of CJ only, or if both locations were engaging in these harsh and atrocious conditions. In addition, I am not 100% sure as to which location some of these photos were taken at.

We happened upon information about the first location of CJ driving through Shoal Like #39 (Iskatewizaagegan), on our way to visit some friends. When I stumbled upon some puppies (to my absolute joy!!!!!!IMG_20170623_161940460! see right!), we spoke to a gentleman on the reserve who told us about School Point – the first location of CJ. He highlighted that an elder nearby on the reserve was a Residential School Survivor from this location. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to speak with him. All weekend long it rained and rained, but we hopped in a pontoon of a friends, who new much about the location, and he took us over to the  island. Yes- the first location was isolated on an island, imposing on Shoal Lake Reserve, and ran from 1902-1929. All of this information about the first location we had learned about through word of mouth.122345While attending an event at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto this month I met Victoria Freeman, author of Distant Relations: How my Ancestors Colonized North America. While we spoke, she highlighted that there was a large dispute between the parents of the children who attended CJ and the teachers of the schools – I still have to read more into it (“Voices of the Parents: The Shoal Lake Anishinabe and Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School 1902-1929”, in Native Voices in Research, ed. Jill Oakes (Winnipeg: Native Studies Press, University of Manitoba, 2003), but these disputes unfortunately don’t surprise me.

It was really ominous visiting School Point. Having been abandoned several times over, including the original school – of which the cafeteria still stands… ish… It was also ran by the church for camps more recently and has since been given back to Shoal Lake —- or at least that is my understanding, which definitely is prone to its flaws. Never the less, I felt strange. The land is defiantly home to some bears and other animals. It was really quite a sickening and uncomfortable feeling being there. However, we could not travel very far as the brush was high and thick. Here are some photos of what it looks like today.

I suspect I will only continue to learn more about CJ and other residential schools, and really dive in to how their existence has greatly impacted Indigenous peoples. I will definately be exploring Victoria’s literature as it pertains to CJ. Please share if you have any more information.


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