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Indian Boarding School monument planned

Friday January 24, 2014
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News

A monument to the former students of the St. Joseph’s Indian Boarding School in Thunder Bay is being planned for the corner of Franklin and Arthur Streets.

A monument is being planned for the former St. Joseph’s Indian Boarding School (Fort William Indian Residential School) location at the corner of Arthur and Franklin Streets in Thunder Bay.

“What I’d like to do is try to look at the possibility of getting a few more drawings rendered on a simple monument, possibly in stone with a plaque that honours and remembers the children that attended the residential school here,” said Ann Magiskan, Aboriginal liaison with the City of Thunder Bay. “As well, looking at location is key. For maintaining and honouring the Elders and their experiences that they had, we really need to focus on staying fairly close to the original location of the site.”

Plans for the monument, which included a presentation of proposed monument drawings by Nigigoonsiminikaaning artist Perry Perrault, were discussed during a Jan. 15 meeting at Pope John Paul II Senior Elementary School, which is located next to the location of the former residential school.

“I would like to see a simple monument that is a memorial to the children, not to the school,” said Lac Des Mille Lac Elder Jim Chicago, a former St. Joseph’s Indian Boarding School student from 1947-1958. “It’s entirely up to the group here where they would like to put it, but if they move it somewhere else it is not a memorial to the children, it’s a memorial to the school.”

Chicago would prefer to have the monument placed near the corner of Arthur and Franklin Streets. He said the meeting brought back a lot of memories and flashbacks from residential school.

“I’ve been having them now for the last couple of days since I found out about this meeting,” Chicago said. “Every time somebody talks about the residential school, I get flashbacks and some of them are not very nice. I get all emotional and I’m starting to shake now thinking about it.”

Pino Tassone, superintendent of education with Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, said a feasibility study will be conducted by an engineer once the monument location is decided upon.

“Once we know where the location is, it will give us a better idea of what kind of monument we want,” Tassone said. “We know we want the monument to be simple. Jim brought up an excellent point of how it’s all about the kids that were here, so we’re going to respect that.”

Magiskan is looking to have the monument in place by June 11, the sixth anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology on behalf of all Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system.

Affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Sault Ste Marie, the St. Joseph’s Indian Boarding School was originally established on the Fort William Indian Reserve in 1870 as The Orphan Asylum of Fort William. It was moved to the Franklin Street location in 1907 and closed in 1964. It was demolished in 1966.

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