New digital access to archived residential school records
The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, within Sault Ste. Marie's Algoma University, has finished digitizing a series of archival records that tell the story of two former residential schools in the area.
The idea is to help make these documents available to people and to educate them about the true history of these schools.
Shirley Horn called Shingwauk Residential School home for many years.
She was sent here when she was just seven-years-old, and she feels that she lost some things because of it.
"A lack of connection with my own family, and it took many years to try and get that back again and to get that flowing. And then, of course, the language, we don’t have one fluent Cree speaker in our First Nation,” said Horn.
The residential school survivor says this new digital access project will help, as it involves the digitizing of 10 'letter books' that document the early years of the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Residential Schools.
"Those letter books are so important because they become part of the record of history, of the true history of this county," said Horn.
Ranging from 1876 to 1904, some of the letters contain a lot of detail, and sketches of what the school and uniforms looked like. There is also correspondence from the first couple of principals of these two residential schools.
Krista McCracken is a researcher and curator for Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.
"There are a lot of individual stories in these letter books. Stories about students who attended the residential school, and making that information available is so important to families and communities who might be trying to connect to relatives who have passed on,” said McCracken.
Horn says these digital records are an important part of the truth and reconciliation process.
"If there’s going to be any reconciliation, this truth has to be known. It has to be spoken and it has to be acknowledged, and so, that’s why every record that we can get needs to be persevered and available to the people in this country,” said Horn.
Horn says the letters will also help people understand the social and political environment in which residential schools operated.
The letter books and their descriptions are now available on the Algoma University archives website.