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Child-Targeted Assimilation: An Oral History of Indian Day School Education in Kahnawà:ke

The information on this page is based on graduate research conducted in the Special Individualized Program (MA) at Concordia University (Master’s Thesis completed in March 2019). I am continuing research on this topic as a PhD student in the Integrated Studies in Education Department at McGill University to begin Fall 2019.

March 2019
© Wahéhshon Shiann Whitebean, 2019
CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Day School/Indian Day School: “All forms of schooling for Indigenous children in Canada were notoriously underfunded and poorly staffed and did not provide an adequate education by any standard (Raptis, 2016, p. 136). Day Schools became the primary educational institution for Indigenous children in both Canada and the United States because they were “cheaper educational programs” (Reyhner & Eder, 2017, p. 249). According to Raptis (2011), “The main argument in favor of such establishments was that in addition to educating individual learners, they could positively influence entire communities to adopt ‘western ways’” (p. 521; Lomawaima & McCarty, 2010). In Canada, Day Schools existed over a longer period of time and in greater numbers than Residential Schools (since the early 1600s) and operated with the same colonial intent of erasure of identity and assimilation into Western society as the Residential Schools (Axelrod 1997; Miller, 1996; Raptis 2016).” (Whitebean, 2019, p. 36)

“Recent studies on Indigenous Education in Canada and the United States have largely focused on the effects of Residential Schooling. It should be noted, however, that Indigenous children attended Day Schools in greater numbers than Residential Schools and we still know little about their experiences (Raptis, 2016). For many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, the language, culture, and identity losses caused by Day Schooling were traumatic experiences that spanned several generations (White, 2015; Stacey, 2016).” (Whitebean, 2019, p. 3)


“Indigenous children in what is currently known as Quebec were subjects of attempted assimilation through education, schooling, and apprehension for a long period of time. Some of the earliest recorded Catholic missionary efforts in New France were conducted by the Récollets, Jesuits, and Ursulines in the early 1600s (Miller, 1996; Peace, 2017). The community of Kahnawà:ke (previously known as Kentá:ke or Caughnawaga) was established in 1667 (Divine, 1922; Blanchard, 1982). This research provides a background on the policies and practices of education and schooling in Kahnawà:ke starting from the first attempt to operate a formal school in 1826 (Osgood, 1829; Divine, 1922).” (Whitebean, 2019, p. 3)

Appendix E: Chronology of Day Schooling in Kahnawà:ke

(Whitebean, 2019, p. 156)

Year(s) Information & References
1826 First formal Day School opens in Kahnawà:ke, English school, Methodist (Divine, 1922; Osgood, 1829)
1829 Methodist school closes in Caughnawaga, reopens in Chateauguay with “continued opposition from Romish priests” (Divine, 1922, p. 371; Osgood, 1829)
1831 Some children from Caughnawaga sent to school in Saint John, taught by C.W Forest (Divine, 1922, pp. 368-369)
1835 Lord Aylmer appointed to open Roman Catholic English village school, teacher withdrawn in 1838 due to Rev. Marcoux’s “prejudice against English” (Divine, 1922, p. 366)
1837 Report of the executive council of Indian Affairs, “little being done for the education of the Indians” (Divine 1922, p. 373).
1840s – 1958 Children from Caughnawaga sent to Wikwemikong and Spanish Residential Schools run by Roman Catholic missionaries (Divine, 1922, pp. 426-427).
1864 Sisters of Saint Ann approached for the first time to teach in Caughnawaga, again in 1888 and 1913. (Roy, 1994)
1887 A school is built next to the Catholic church. 100 students enrolled (Katzer, 1972, pp. 179-180).
1907 QC Bridge disaster, government offers to take effected children into boarding or Residential Schools (Fleming, 2007, p. 54).
1910 Trilingual teachers from Caughnawaga teaching in schools with missionaries, see Katzer (1972) for student statistics from 1910 (pp. 179-180). 1910: “37 Kahnawà:ke children in Wikwemikong (22 boys, 15 girls) and 15 at Anglican Mt. Elgin Industrial School (Reid, 2004, p. 108).
1912 After this period, less common for children from Caughnawaga to be sent to boarding schools but it still occurred until the 1950s (Katzer, 1972, p. 149).
1915 Sisters of Saint Anne: 1st convent on the main road “Mr. Jacco’s home”. Girls’ school (3 classes) opens, boys’ school (4 classes). Pastor Rev. Father Joseph Gras, S.J. Personnel: 5 Religious, 2 lay teachers. Students: 121 boys, 127 girls. Classes: “Kindergarten, Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6”. (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4). 
1917 (Oct) SSA: Convent moves to “Mr. Julian Jacobs’ house on the river road, first convent too small with increase to 8 personnel. (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4). 
1918 Schools closed from October 10, 1918 to November 12, 1918 due to Spanish influenza outbreak in Caughnawaga (SSA Archives, B46/13, 26).
1919 Letter from Duncan Campbell Scott dated July 15, 1919 to SSA to stop using “Indian girls to give instruction to the pupils in the Caughnawaga schools (SSA Archives, B46/13, 32).
1919 Letter (page 144 of the Council Book), 22 children being sent to Ottawa or Spanish Ontario institutes. Signed by Mayor P.J. Delisle, and Indian Agent J. M. Brosseau (KORLCC Archives).
1921 (Feb) SSA: convent moved to Dr. Tom Patton’s home on the new Malone highway, property acquired after his death. Personnel now up to 11 teachers. They live there until 1950 (Roy, 1994; SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4). 
1923 Supervision of Saint Isidore Road School (207) given to Sr. Superior. “One lay teacher with 21 pupils” (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4). 
1928 Senior School built: 5 Religious personnel, 92 pupils. Kateri School: 4 Religious personnel, 123 pupils. Eastern School: 3 Religious personnel, 1 lay teacher, 131 pupils (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4). 
1931   Supervision of the Bush School: 1 teacher, 27 pupils (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4).
1938 Manual training assumed by Rev. Brother Gauthier, S.J. to equip the boys with concepts of craftsmanship.
1941 Senior School burns, students lodged in glass-partitioned classes in other two schools and two classes in private homes until 1949. Diplomas: 24 academic diplomas and 226 from grade IX. Vocations: 1 priest, Rev. Father Michael Jacobs, S.J.  (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4).
1949 New Kateri Tekakwitha School (12 classes, centralizes all the Catholic children of the reserve): 9 Religious personnel, 7 lay teachers, 309 or 384 pupils, 55 Handmaids and Knights of the Blessed Sac. 25 Crusaders, 58 Cadette aspirants (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4).
1950 “Visit of Mis Eminence Eugene Cardinal Tisserand of Rome, who blesses the new Kateri School on the occasion of the Centennial celebration of the Community of the Sisters of Saint Ann” (SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4)
1951 Effective September 1, 1951 Reverend Father Bechard recognized as Principal of the Caughnawaga R.C. Indian Day School, and Sister Mediatrix as Vice-Principal (SSA Archives, B46/13, 48).
1952 Inspection of Kateri School by Sister Mary Anne Eva, Prefect of Studies from November 12 and 13, 1952. Total children registered: 225, in attendance: 204 (SSA Archives, LQ2/9, 1).

Notes: This chronology has been assembled based on the initial research conducted for the Master’s thesis and should be considered “in-progress”.


SSA Archives, LQ2/1, 4: “History of The Mission of the Sisters of Saint Ann at Caughnawaga, Laprairie County, 41 years”.