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The student population increased with the amalgamation from approximately 165 to 485. This was situated on the West Hill of the city in a former army barracks. The children came from the shores of Hudson's Bay; from the hinterland of Churchill there came forty Chipewyans; the Crees poured in from the Hudson Bay Line, from Gillam, Split Lake, York Factory, Churchill and The Pas in Manitoba. From the northland of Saskatchewan there were children from Lac La Ronge, Stanley Mission, Pelican Narrows, Deschambault Lake, Shoal Lake, Red Earth, Cumberland house and Montreal Lake. The Battlefords area contributed students from Little Pine, Sweetgrass, Red Pheasant and Poundmaker. Students from southern Saskatchewan came from the Kamsack and Broadview areas. Little Red River, Sturgeon Lake, Sandy Lake, Mistawasis, Muskeg Lake and a few sioux Indians from the Sioux Wahpeton Reserve comprised the Prince Albert area's yield.
The students were housed in six H-shaped huts, i.e. two wings were joined by the bathroom and washroom areas. The remaining huts housed the eleven classrooms in which grades one to eight were taught. There was also a Home Economics room and a Manual Training Shop. Another hut contained the staff quarters, the office and the hospital. The drill hall, a gloomy cavernous building was used for dances, shows, basketball and volleyball. When there was no supervisor in sight, it also served as a football field, a wrestling ring, a make believe jungle for tarzans and a handy seclusion for puppy lovers. Amateur acrobatics abounded and this required intestinal fortitude for the rafters were thirty feet above a cement floor.
The movies consisted primarily of National Film Board shows and a few rare treats of cowboy and Indian movies.
P.A.I.S. was and is still the only one of its kind in Canada; i.e., it is not one large building like all the other Indian schools. It is located in the old army camp, the original site of the N.W.M.P., on a hill at the very edge of the city of Prince Albert and consisted of twelve H-shaped army huts, a drill hall, a Principal's Residence, a laundry, in which all the school's laundry requirements were done; there was a kitchen and off each side a dining room, one side for boys and the other for the girls.
In 1950, there were two boys, Howard Bighead and Percy Bird attending Prince Albert Collegiate; by 1956 the number had increased to forty students. This trend has increased all along the school history.
At one point in the history, the school served as temporary quarters for the population of St. Pat's Orphanage which had been burned. The interlude is memorable in that some of the greatest rock fights between the Orphanage and the Residential School took place at the time.
The Anglican chapel was located in one wing of hut 22 which was dedicated in 1950 by Bishop Martin, Bishop of Saskatchewan. Attendance to the daily morning services as well as the three Sunday services was compulsory for all students.
A typical day at the Indian School began with the children rising at seven a.m. After everyone had washed and cleaned up, they were lined up to go to their respective dining rooms and sit before their never-changing meal of a bowl of porridge, skim milk and two slices of white bread. During the winter months, every student endured their daily dose of cod-liver oil which was administered by a squirt gun. Sometimes a bad aim resulted in sour smelling clothes which had to be tolerated until you changed clothes which was once a week.
Breakfast over, the daily morning services at the chapel began. The lucky children with minor ailments were excused from attending service to pay a visit to the dispensary. When the service was over, usually in twenty minutes, the children filed back to their respective dormitories to do their duties such as making beds, sweeping, etc., other students worked in the kitchen and dining rooms.
School began at nine which always started with the singing of "0 Canada" followed by roll call which always seemed a little silly since we lined up and were checked out at the dorm before we went to school. The school day ended with the singing of God Save the King" which later changed to "God Save the Queen" and confused us a bit for we were unaware of the reason for the change.
The provincial school curriculum was followed and home Economics and Manual Training were added where the boy's learned how to make book-ends, doorstops, egg cups, which would be very useful for the home on the reserve. The curriculum must have also stipulated that students work half days in the potato fields for this was part of the daily routine in the fall and spring months. Both recesses were usually spent trying to sneak a smoke, munching on a stolen carrot or turnip, or making diabolical schemes for after four.
During residential school days, there was never any homework. This could have been a factor for the difficulty we experienced with homework in high school days.
The hours from four to five were usually spent playing cowboys and Indians, hunting rabbits - and contemplating ways and means to get into the kitchen for an extra bite. The winter months provided the favorite pastimes of skating and going sliding "down the hill" on cardboard. At supper time, there was the usual ritual of lining up for supper. The students, new and old, always knew what meal they were to partake of, e.g., on Monday supper it was bologna, Thursday it was macaroni. Following supper, the older students went to an evening service, depending on the church calendar. The smaller children, junior and intermediates, were sent to bed at 7 p.m. The seniors were in bed by 8 p.m. Spring evenings make for very restless bedtimes and the supervisor had to be on his or her strictest patrol - the sun was still in the sky.
The high-school boys bed time was 10:30 although at certain times, especially during spring, this was not always strictly adhered to. The "late night" for High-school students was Friday night and bedtime was postponed to 11 p.m.
Saturday was the busiest day in the life of the Residential school. The morning was spent scrubbing the dormitories with some students spending their morning working in the kitchen and dining room.
In the afternoon some of the older students were allowed down town and those who weren't allowed usually sneaked to town anyway. Younger children with older brothers and sister's could accompany them to town. The younger ones who stayed home were invariably taken for walks through the city streets and to either the Saskatchewan River or Bryant Park. The older ones were usually allowed their free time then.
Once in a while war was declared between the Manitoba and Saskatchewan students whose population was fairly even. Usual weapons were fists, stones and brooms and the battles were held in the more sheltered areas of the school grounds. Most skirmishes ended in a draw but were perhaps a good way of letting out a lot of frustration.
The girl's activities during the school year included the Girl's Auxiliary of which the usual number was 150 comprising the senior and intermediate girls. They met every two weeks in the evenings.
The Junior boys and girls belonged to Little Helpers. This group included eight year-olds and they had midweek meetings where they were taught hymns, prayers and some handwork. All of the intermediate boys belonged to the Church Boys League with similar activities as the little ones. The intermediates were also Cubs and were very fortunate to have two very conscientious supervisors. After the two men left, the Cubs went out of existence.
All of the senior and high school boys had to belong to the Air Cadets. This was the only All Indian Air Cadet Squadron in Canada. The Squadron won numerous awards in the province and the award won the most times was the Attendance Award. The high school students initiated a school paper which they published spasmodically usually five or six releases a year. Over the five or six years the paper was in existence, it was censored at least seven times for attacking or questioning the residential school policies.
A surprising note of the school history is that, from this unlikely environment emerged a high percentage of leadership qualities that has never been equalled before or since. I have always been of the opinion that this startling occurrence may be directly attributed to the fact that the students had to rely on one another for spiritual and moral comfort that was needed to endure the spartan-like existence. This sterile type of life was so contrary to the warmth and easy going life of the reserve.
Some of the more notable alumni were Solomon Sanderson, Special Assistant to the Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, Rod Soonias, Director of F.S.I. Education Task Force, Stan Wilson, Newstart in Manitoba, Lawrence Whitehead, Executive, Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, Jocelyn Wilson, B.ScN,
The punishments that were used to rebellious students varied from staying in bed on a Saturday afternoon to a whipping in front of the entire student population in the dining room. The cruelest form of punishment devised was the shaving of boys heads' and wearing dresses for a week and was designed to cure runaways of their wandering ways.
The foregoing is an abbreviated residential school history from the years 1948 to approximately 1964.
In 1964 a building program was started with four new cottage-type dormitories being built. The cottages were intended to accommodate twenty-four children in family units, boys and girls ranging in ages from six to sixteen years or Grade 9. The very modern buildings are supervised under the guidance of young married families to provide a home-like atmosphere for the students. The daily routine of the present day residence remains much the same.
There are presently eight new cottages, a new general services building which includes the cafeteria, administration offices, kitchen and an infirmary. The drill hall was renovated in 1969 and the name was changed to gymnasium.
Four of the H-shaped huts are still used as dormitories and although they have been renovated countless times, they are still the same cold, drafty and hard to keep clean places they were in 1948.
In the early sixties, the integration program was introduced by the Department of Indian Affairs. This brain-child of some bureaucrat in Ottawa has only served to confuse the true identity of the Indian child by starting the brainwashing process at a very tender age. It has done very little to halt the high drop-out and failure rate of the Indian student. The faint glimmer that it will ease the terrible grade-retardation of Indian students seems to be the only bright speck on the horizon on the integration program.
About the same time, the boarding house program was being introduced. Whatever closeness and whatever leadership qualities being developed in the high school students is stunted or lost in the great assimilation and separation on the students entry into the city.
Material and tangible comforts have improved with the new education program but the understanding, counseling and guidance of the students still leaves a lot to he desired. Recent discussions of eventual Indian takeover of the Student Residence have prompted some of the employees of these institutions to change their sterile attitudes and working habits. The children will surely benefit, from the changes that are slowly evolving for the institutions must continue to exist and better times must be inevitable.
It is sad to note that most changes have been physical. One of the most notable and saddest physical changes is that with the construction of the New Victoria Union Hospital on the west side of the Residence, the happy rabbit-hunting grounds of the students was annihilated.