This research project is on the last generation of residential school survivors, specifically those from the Indian residential school located in Lebret, Saskatchewan, Canada.

‘Last Generation’ refers to the time when the operation of the school was turned over to the Star Blanket Cree Nation from 1984 until it closed in 1998. The school was known as the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School or as QIRS by many students, but in 1993 the school changed its name to White Calf Collegiate.

The stories from this last generation of students paint a different picture of the school. Many share happy memories and recall laughter, camaraderie, life-long friendships, success and family.

I was told that “making relatives” is a common practice among First Nations people. It is a form of respect and acknowledgement and once you are considered family, you are family forever. I believe this is how many former students and staff feel about one another.

mīnisa explained

“I don’t have extended family, in my language we only use the term family. I am an extension of my family, they are not an extension of me.”

SIMON BIRD

About the Author

When I was presented with the opportunity to pursue a Master of Journalism degree at the University of Regina, I jumped at the chance.

As a journalist I had covered many stories about Indian Residential Schools from the National Apology, the compensation process, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the 94 Calls to Action, heart-wrenching stories of survivors and movements towards reconciliation by the government, individuals, organizations, the public and private sector and educational institutes. There have been movies, books articles, studies, art installations and art projects about Canada’s dark history.

What I did not hear were stories from my generation. I am a fourth-generation residential school survivor, but my story is different.

My memories are mixed with sadness because I spent years away from my family because there was no on-reserve high school. Fortunately, I bonded with students and staff at the residential school in Lebret, which made being away from home less stressful. While at school I created memories and lifelong bonds with strangers and those connections remain strong because they became my other9 family.

The school was the tree that sprouted many berries, we are all different but we all came from the same place and we became a family – Mīnisa.

Encircled by my classmates.


Disclaimer

This project is on the residential school in Lebret during this specific time period. I acknowledge this may not be the experience of all the students at this school during this time. This project in no way denies the history of Indian Residential Schools in Canada or the suffering that occurred. This project focuses on the brief period of time when a First Nation with a vision for a better use of the facility took control.