This project is on the last generation of residential school survivors, specifically those from the Indian residential school located in Lebret, SK Canada. Last Generation refers to the time when the operation of the school was turned over to the Starblanket Cree Nation from 1984 until it cosed 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 Whitecalf Collegiate.
This generation of students have a very different story about their time in the school it is a story that has not been told. Surprisingly, many share happy memories and recall laughter, camaraderie, life-long friendships, success and family.
As a First Nations person I know “making relatives” is a common practice one that is still practiced today. It is seen as 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.
“I don’t have extended family, in my language we only use therm 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 my Master of Journalism 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 Lebret residential school, 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 surrogate 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.