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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

No. 27: Poundmaker Lodge as Residential School

Today, the Poundmaker Lodge near St. Albert is an alcohol and drug treatment centre run by native people.

But, as Dorothy Field of Alberta Historic Sites Services explains, it first served as residential school for native children.

The residential school program started in Canada in the 1880s and continued through the 1960s. The basic aim, as we probably all know, was to assimilate and acculturate the native population. This was believed to be a good thing.

Alberta had the greatest number of residential schools, with 19 in total. They were run by various Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.

The Edmonton Residential School, as it was known at the time, was run by the Methodist Church. It was built in 1924 to replace an even older school in Red Deer.

It was an industrial and farming school for native children who came from reserves north of Edmonton, for the most part. And that was one reason why the school was moved to this spot, just northeast of St. Albert, because, previously, the children had had to travel much farther from home. And with the new building, they could be nearer to their families.

As historian Dorothy Field notes, the building was very similar to other residential schools of the period.

It's two and-a-half stories tall, built of brick. It's very solidly built, except that it suffered from a number of problems, including draughty windows and leaky ceilings, which caused a great deal of hardship over the years, and perhaps contributed to the fact that it wasn't really very popular with parents or children.

In later years, when the local population of natives declined, new students were bussed-in from the Skeena Valley and Prince Rupert in British Columbia.

Apparently, this was at least partially at the request of their parents, who felt that their children could get better technical training. This was in the 50s and 60s, when the children were not attending school on the site, but would go into Edmonton, to Jasper Place to receive their education.

Renamed Poundmaker Lodge, the building was declared an historic site in 1983.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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