Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School

Students and family members, Father Joseph Hugonard (principal), staff and Grey Nuns on a hill overlooking the Qu'Appelle Industrial School, May 1885

Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School (Q.I.R.S.) or Qu'Appelle Industrial School was a Canadian residential school financed by the federal government. It was operated from 1884 to 1969 by the Roman Catholic Church for First Nations children and was run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Nuns. It was located on what is now the Wa-Pii Moos-toosis (White Calf) Indian Reserve of the Star Blanket Cree Nation adjoining the village of Lebret, Saskatchewan.[1]

Lebret is situated on the northeast shore of Mission Lake in the Qu'Appelle Valley 6 km east of Fort Qu'Appelle on Highway 56.


Qu'Appelle Industrial School in 1885. Parents camped outside the gate in order to visit their children. Destroyed by fire in 1904.

Qu'Appelle Industrial School was built in 1884 to fulfill one of the conditions of Treaty 4, signed in 1874, which was to provide schools and education for First Nations children. Fifteen students were enrolled in the first year with Father Joseph Hugonard as the first principal. In 1886 there were 86 students and by 1914 there were 280 students.[2]

"With the assistance of the Grey Nuns, a few Oblate fathers, and lay instructors, Hugonard was to make Qu’Appelle Industrial School a model Catholic educational facility for native people and the largest such institution in Canada. The native children, in parallel boys’ and girls’ schools, attended classes for half the day and engaged in domestic or agricultural pursuits the other half. English was the language of instruction; the girls played croquet and the boys cricket."[3]

The first building was destroyed by fire in 1904 and the second Qu'Appelle Industrial School was destroyed by fire in 1932. It was replaced by the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School in 1935. The school was expanded with additions and a gymnasium and St. Paul's High School was added to the complex in 1951.The decision was made in 1965 to close education above grade 9[4] and the high school closed in 1969[5]

Sister G. Marcoux wrote a history of the school in 1955, on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the province of Saskatchewan[6] and an article of its history on its centenary was published.[7]

White Calf Collegiate

The school re-opened under the operations of the reserve in 1973[8][9] under the name White Calf Collegiate, in charge of the residences but not education.[4] Grade 10 was added in 1977 at the expense of losing grade 1, then Grade 11 was added in 1978 and in 1981 the Board became the School Council and took over the school. Grade 12 was added, with the first graduating class May 21, 1982.[4] The school finally closed in August 1998.[10] White Calf Collegiate, operated by the Star Blanket Cree Nation, was demolished in 1999.[1]

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