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Provincial plaque commemorating Shingwauk Hall updated to reflect the true history of the former residential school

Take care: The Residential School System is a topic that may cause trauma invoked by memories of past abuse. A National Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students and others affected. You can access information or access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. 

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, Sept. 30, 2022 /CNW/ - Today, on National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Ontario Heritage Trust, in partnership with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA) and Algoma University, unveiled a new provincial plaque commemorating the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School in Sault Ste. Marie.

(CNW Group/Ontario Heritage Trust)
(CNW Group/Ontario Heritage Trust)

The new plaque replaces an outdated 1977 version that excluded facts about the true purpose of the residential school and misrepresented the experiences of students. Historian Skylee-Storm Hogan, in consultation with Survivors of the school, was engaged to research and expand on the history of the institution to provide an authentic and honest account of its impact and legacy. The Trust also worked with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University to review the new plaque text and its translations to Anishinaabemowin and Swampy Cree.

The plaque is available in Anishinaabemowin, Swampy Cree, English and French. The English plaque reads as follows:

Shingwauk Hall

The Shingwauk Indian Residential School operated on this site from 1875 to 1970 as part of the Canadian Residential Schools system. An Anglican minister, E.F. Wilson, named this school for Chief Shingwaukonse (Little Pine). Shingwaukonse had a vision of creating teaching wigwams where Anishinaabe and settler children would learn from each other's cultures. In 1935, Shingwauk Hall was built to replace the former school building, known as the Shingwauk Industrial Home. The assimilationist Residential School created in Shingwaukonse's name did not fulfil his vision for cross-cultural education. At its peak, 150 First Nation, Métis and Inuit children were removed from their homes every year, most of them forcibly, and forbidden to speak their languages. Education focused on physical or domestic labour, English language and religious instruction and was meant to break cultural, linguistic and familial ties, often separating siblings. The cemetery on site includes burials for over 120 students and staff, with many remaining unmarked. Since the closure of the Residential School in 1970, Survivors have formed the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, which works to dedicate Shingwauk Hall to cross-cultural education in the true vision of Chief Shingwaukonse and the healing of communities from the harms of Residential Schools.

Residential schools were part of a systemic effort to rob Indigenous children of their culture, their ties to their communities and their families. These schools existed for over 100 years across Canada and were endured by generations of Indigenous children. The Trust is committed to truth-telling, to educating on residential schools and their legacy.

Commemorating these difficult stories through the Provincial Plaque Program is one of the ways that the Trust aims to provide an opportunity for all to learn and reflect about the full complexity of our shared heritage. Several stories told through the Provincial Plaque Program have excluded the perspectives of Indigenous peoples, and as a result have misrepresented the past.

The Trust will continue to listen and pay respect to the wisdom of Elders and Knowledge Keepers and engage with First Nations and Métis communities to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into its work. Work is currently in progress to revisit more plaques and address gaps or misinformation in past interpretations of residential schools' history.

Quotes

"The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association is pleased that the Shingwauk Hall provincial plaque is being updated. This falls in line with the work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association with truth-telling and reconciliation. This indicates that reconciliation with Indigenous People comes in many forms and this will start the long process of truth-telling which is very important." – Irene Barbeau, President of Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association

"The updated Shingwauk Hall provincial plaque acknowledges the tragic and painful legacy of residential schools and helps remember and honour the Indigenous children and Survivors who were taken from their communities. It also provides Ontarians an opportunity to learn, reflect and deepen our understanding of the impact of residential schools and strengthen our relationships with Indigenous people as we continue working towards meaningful reconciliation." – Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism

"Algoma University is inherently aware of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of the Indian Residential School system and is undertaking significant steps to decolonize the institution, its policies, processes and spaces. The amended language on this plaque aligns with our ongoing commitment to the Calls to Action and the true history of the Shingwauk site and reinforces the need for safe spaces to allow for the telling of truth." – Mary Wabano-McKay, Vice President Nyaagaaniid - Anishinabe Initiatives Equity Student Success, Algoma University

"The Trust recognizes that the past – the role of colonization and racism in Canada's history – still impacts Indigenous peoples today. Today, on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we reaffirm our commitment to work with Indigenous communities to educate the public on the true legacy of the residential school system so that this history is never forgotten." John Ecker, Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust

Quick facts

  • The Shingwauk Hall provincial plaque is installed at Algoma University, Arthur A. Wishart Library, 1520 Queen Street East, Sault Ste. Marie.

  • Since 1956, the Trust has unveiled 1,286 provincial plaques commemorating provincially significant people, places and events in Ontario's history. As the Trust's understanding of history continues to broaden, the Provincial Plaque Program will evolve to reflect the complexity of Ontario's rich heritage better.

  • The Trust has a number of provincial plaques recognizing Indigenous heritage across Ontario. Examples include: Chief Francis Pegahmagabow, The Anishinaabeg at Lake of Bays and the Jean-Baptiste Lainé Site.

Learn more

Resources

About the Ontario Heritage Trust
The Ontario Heritage Trust (the Trust) is an agency of the Government of Ontario. The Trust conserves, interprets and shares Ontario's heritage. We conserve provincially significant cultural and natural, tangible and intangible heritage, interpret Ontario's history, celebrate its diversity and educate Ontarians of its importance in our society. The Trust envisions an Ontario where we conserve, value and share the places and landscapes, histories, traditions and stories that embody our heritage, now and for future generations.

SOURCE Ontario Heritage Trust

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