Class of 1990
Margaret Benjoe-Starblanket attended the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School for her final semester of high school. She looks back at that time with fondness. She attended public school in Regina for most of her life, but was curious about the residential school in Lebret because she had relatives who attended.
Reason for going
Margaret was not happy at school and didn’t think she would graduate. She wanted a change and so she asked her parents to send her. Margaret had relatives and friends at the school, so the transition from public school to residential school was smooth. Initially, her mother opposed the idea. Margaret now realizes her mother was a residential school survivor who never disclosed what happened to her while in residence.
Impact of the school
Although her time at the school was brief compared to other students, Margaret says the school had a positive impact on her life.
She learned independence and gained confidence in herself. Margaret said the rules were clearly defined, as a result, she quickly realized the importance of structure and teamwork. If expectations were not met then there were consequences, but punishment was never severe. Margaret said the first week she didn’t do her daily chores properly and was tardy on several occasions and as a result her upcoming weekend pass was revoked. She said it was a good lesson because the following week she asked other students for help.
Margaret said there was also a reward system in place for good behaviour, which she has used for her own children. She believes rewarding children for a job well done instills not only pride but self confidence and that’s what she learned at the school.
Margaret said living in a residential setting with students from Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan was one of the best things about the experience. In public school, there were very few First Nations students and many of the non-Indigenous students she knew from elementary school, so there was no opportunity to meet new people, especially First Nation students.
In terms of independence, every student was responsible for their own personal property and hygiene. Margaret said there were set schedules for laundry, showers and baths. All clothing had to be clearly marked and if you loaned an item out it would sometimes exchange many hands before you got it back, but that was the risk living in a residential setting.
A nurse was on hand at the school, who was able to talk about health issues and who could answer questions.
There was a full-time guidance counsellor, who assisted students not only with career planning, but with things unrelated to school.
Margaret graduated when she was 17 and left confident in her abilities to make decisions for herself.
She has never regretted her decision to go to residential school and says if such a place still existed she would have sent her children just for the sports opportunities and the camaraderie with other students.