Birtle Indian Residential School

Category Exploration Date Status Province / State Country
Schools and Institutions Abandoned Manitoba Canada

History: 

The original school on this location was built in 1894. Today, all that remains of it is a pile of stone from its foundation.

The current building was constructed in 1931 - 1932. It was operated, using government funding, by the Presbyterian Church.

A grant was given to the church based on the number of children enrolled. This grant was to cover all expenses of food, salaries (excepting the Principal and Matron), maintenance, clothing, etc.

Staff at these schools generally included teachers, Boys' and Girls' Supervisors, Cook, Laundry Matron, Sewing Matron, Nurse, Engineer, Farm Manager and Night Watchman. The staff were hired by the Principal up until 1954 when the Department of Indian Affairs took over direct control of the teachers.

The school taught from Grade 1 to Grade 8. From opening, until the mid 1940's, classes only ran half-days, with the remainder of the day being spent on chores that assisted with the upkeep of the farm and property, and on vocational training. With the change to full day classes, students were now able to complete each grade on the same schedule as children in other schools.

By 1959, the Government had decided to shift its focus away from residential schools, and toward educating native students in public schools local to their own communities.

By March 31, 1969, the operation of Birtle School was handed over to the Government, and the church was no longer involved.

It was closed in 1970. The building has since been bought and sold several times. The front section was, at one point, renovated to be a private home.


Personal Commentary: 

It is impossible for anyone who didn't experience it, to know the things that happened here. You can read about it. You can watch the interviews, like this one. Yet still, you cannot know.

With that in mind, the building is fascinating to explore, to see and to feel. What few details remain are a mere suggestion of what might have been.


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