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Big Change In Boarding Schools

Lloyd Brass

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JANUARY 1978      v08 n01 p39  
Parents
Parents inspect modern sleeping facilities at Marieval
Being an ex-student of the old dungeon type of Boarding Schools run by the Oblate Fathers, I have witnessed a whole new transformation of the Marieval Boarding School set up just recently.

It was over a decade ago, I left Lebret to face the world after being in seclusion for four years of ten months school terms. We were propagated to toe the line and march with bowed heads to the dining room, to the classrooms and to the dormatory.

I use to wonder when they were going to shave my head like a monk after being forced to snip my supposed private hair off my head. We must have beaten a path to the chapel, the distance of, twice around the world and tried to concentrate on what the sermon was all about.

Day in and day out, often several times a day, our ears were blasted on how sinful we were and how we were headed to the damnation of eternal fire.

Our meals were pitiful and often dried up, our beds were not the kind a person would like to dive into after a hard day. Our clothes and our shoes were identical and we even had numbers instead of names.

The hallways echoed and the surrounding was less than cheerful. Doors were locked and your movements were restricted to certain hours. The punished pupils were looked down upon by the authority and in turn became the scapegoat of the other students.

All that I described above was my early education and it seems to me there are places like this where people are treated like zombies for certain lengths of time for doing wrong against society's law abiding structure. The only thing I did wrong was to have a treaty number and that was the only alternative, the Indian Affairs had to drive the savagery out of me and attend the hard knocks of a Boarding School run by the Oblates.

After leaving school I faced a whole new world which scared me into self conscientousness. I was free to speak, sleep, walk and just about free to do anything else. I was like a young pony let loose to pasture after being cooped up.

All that was taught to me at school did not serve me any use. I had to learn the hard way to live like everybody else in the workaday world. I use to condemn the Boarding Schools for the difficulty of adjusting into this new social structure. I was lost and it was terrifying at times.

It has been a long time since I stepped into a Boarding School. I had the privilege of visiting the Marieval Boarding School this school term. I was amazed and almost shocked at the set up they had. This was like heaven on earth compared to the lifeless structure I attended some twelve years of my early life.

I did not see kids marching single file with bowed heads and arms folded. I saw kids mingling all over the place. There was a spirit of happiness and contentment just like a happy family in a happy home.

The, wooden benches and steel lockers were replaced with soft couches and dressers. Where steel army like beds once stood gaudy and lifeless are now modern beds.

The hairdo's and clothes the children wore were what kids in town wore. The dining room was like walking into a Cafe and all the patrons seemed engrossed into some topics of interest.

And speaking of the dining room on this day the menu was wild meat shot and killed by the students themselves. In my times we were made ashamed of what we ate at home.

On this certain day parents were walking about visiting the living quarters. In my time my parents or visitors were restricted to the parlour.

The whole building inside is far from being a dungeon, this was a real home with comfortable surroundings. According to the Administrator Louis Whiteman the staff are oriented to play the role of a parent.

The whole structure is geared towards adjusting the student to the outside world. In my time it seemed to me we were being prepared for the convent or monastary.

I know for a fact these students at Marieval have it made. They will find it easier to adjust to society's way without running headlong into a jungle of frustrations like in my experiences from Lebret and the St. Philip's Schools.

If I had to attend a school like Marieval today, I would stay in school forever.