The Legacy of Residential Schools

I’ve known Chief Fred Robbins from Esketemc for many years, but it wasn’t until a soccer road trip seven or eight years ago that I first heard about his residential school experience.  I knew that Williams Lake had been home to a residential school for decades, but I’m embarrassed to say, as both an educator and a longtime resident of the community, that I knew very little about the school itself.

St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School opened in 1872 and closed in 1981.  Its story is not ancient history.  The fact that we are still dealing with its legacy should not be at all surprising.  

Last summer, Chief Fred invited me to lunch and told me for the first time about a grant that his community had applied for through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  At that point, he was looking for community and regional partners to be a part of a Commemoration Ceremony.  This ceremony would bring together all members of our community to take a look back at the residential school experiences of so many but also to bring all community members together for a time of healing and restoration.

Over the past year, many have partnered with Chief Fred to make this Commemoration Ceremony a reality.  Residents from a number of our First Nations communities have joined prominent community members from Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, and Quesnel.  The cities, the municipalities, the Cariboo Regional District, the RCMP, and the School District have played their parts, but it has been Chief Fred’s vision from the start that has brought us to where we are now.

I truly believe that our School District and our communities will never reach our fullest potential until we truly come together as First Nations and non-First Nations people.  This has everything to do with being neighbours in every sense of the word.  To be able to do that, we as educators need to first recognize that the residential school experiences of so many in our community will continue to impact them as well as us for our lifetimes.  We then need to learn about how all of us can work more effectively in living with this legacy.

I want to thank Chief Fred and countless others for all of their hard work to bring these events to our region.  I also want to ensure that everyone is aware of two events that are happening this week in School District No. 27:

Professional Development Day

Friday, April 26, 2013

Williams Lake Secondary School

9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon in the Commons

Refreshments will be served. 

To register, please contact Rayna Carpenter at 250-398-3855 or

A panel of guest speakers will share:

  • Their experiences from Residential Schools and/or how Residential Schools impacted their lives
  • Ideas on how to work together with students and their families to move forward from the impacts of residential schooling

Youth Video Presentation

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Williams Lake Secondary School

1:00 p.m. in the Commons 

As part of the Commemoration Project, students from School District No. 27 are involved in a weeklong filmmaking project.  Come out to see their World Premiere, as well as the short film on residential schooling – “We Were Children”.





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