Indian Residential Schools at Kamsack/Fort Pelly and Cross Lake


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted that “The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) provides the most comprehensive listing of Canadian residential schools for Aboriginal people. At the time of approval, the Settlement Agreement listed 130 residential schools and residences. The Settlement Agreement also outlined a process by which additional schools could be added to the list of approved institutions. At the time of writing [2015], nine institutions had been added to the list.”1Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Final Report, Volume 4: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, p. 139.

The TRC identified various issues that “combine to complicate any attempt to list the schools on the Settlement Agreement with their opening and closing dates, location, and religious affiliation. … Appendix 1.1 presents the schools listed on the Settlement Agreement by province (in alphabetical order). Because of the number of schools with the same name, the schools are listed by location. (When more than one school was located in a single location, there are multiple entries for that location. Appendix 1.1 also addresses the anomolies that appeared in the Settlement Agreement list …”2Ibid, p. 140.

The TRC described two  decisions about how to handle schools listed on the IRSSA: “The Kamsack and Fort Pelly Roman Catholic schools have been combined, as have the Roman Catholic schools at Cross Lake, Norway House, Notre Dame, and Jack River, which appear to have been part of a linked administrative structure.”3Ibid, p. 140.

First, we would reverse the TRC’s decision to combine the institutions at Kamsack/Fort Pelly, Saskatchewan into a single Indian Residential School. The Canadian government prepared separate School Narratives for Fort Pelly IRS and St. Phillip’s IRS at Kamsack/Fort Pelly. The School Narrative for Fort Pelly IRS indicates that the institution opened in July 1905 and closed in September 1913, due to low enrolment, the ill health of the principal, and the poor conditions of the building. The School Narrative for St. Phillip’s IRS indicates that it didn’t open until 1928. The fifteen year gap between the operation of these institutions argues for treating them as separate Indian Residential Schools.

Second, we would take a different approach to the admittedly confusing situation at Cross Lake, Manitoba. The NCTR website indicates that Cross Lake, St. Joseph’s, and Norway House schools did operate essentially as a single entity from 1912-1969; however, Notre Dame Hostel was established and operated with its own funding from 1960-1969. Thus, we would distinguish Cross Lake/St. Joseph’s/Norway House/Jack River IRS from Notre Dame Hostel IRS.