Carol, a residential school survivor, worked at several residential schools with the longest stint being at the school in Lebret. She pursued employment at the schools only after the control was taken away from the churches in the 1970s and handed over to First Nations people. 

Reason for going

As a child, Carol’s parents had no say over where she went to school. It was a horrible experience filled with every abuse imaginable. She never would have considered stepping foot in a residential school had it not been for the changes that happened with the movement towards Indian Control of Education. As a single mother, work in a residential school became a viable option to provide her children with the opportunities she could not afford while still being there to care for them.

Impact of the school

Carol was protective by nature and recalled, as a student, defending her siblings when the nuns or priests tried to punish them. She had many physical altercations with the priests and nuns until she was finally expelled.

Carol and her siblings were from the Cowessess First Nation and all attended the Marieval Indian Residential School, which was located on the reserve. From the start, the experience was negative. At the age of five she was taken to the school and processed. Her long hair was cut to her shoulders, but when it was discovered that she was not six yet, she was allowed to go home. 

It wasn’t until years later Carol disclosed the full extent of the abuse she suffered at the school that included sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse. 

She did not set foot back in residential school until after she had her own children. In 1979, Carol was 19 and a single mother of four. She did not have the financial means to care for her children, so she placed them into residential school, but rather than leave them she took a job at the school.

Carol and her children didn’t stay at the school long, but in 1983 they all found their way to the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret. She stayed and watched her children grow and graduate from the school alongside hundreds of other children over her 13-year career at the school. Carol said she wanted to make sure none of the children who were under her care were ever hurt physically or sexually. She said none of “her girls” went to bed in fear. 

Final thoughts

Carol has never regretted the decision she made to place her children in residential school or to work in the schools. She says those 13 years at QIRS, which became White Calf Collegiate, were the best years of her life. Her children echo her sentiments.