Residential school site in Peace River gains recognition with federal grant

Curator for the Peace River Museum said influence of residential schools is not known in Peace River, Alberta  

The Peace River Museum and Archives in Northern Alberta has received a grant from the Canadian government to restore a residential school site.

Along the Peace River, is the St. Augustine Mission church, cemetery and land where the residential school once stood.

Laura Love, curator for the Peace River Museum said the site is relatively unknown and there is currently no sign that the school even existed.

“The residential school history, the influence of the school still today in Peace River is not known,” Love told APTN News.

With the $34,000 grant, the museum can outline past existing buildings, create signs and hold tours to bring awareness to the legacy of residential schools and honour residential school survivors.

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APTN News Coverage of Residential Schools

Wendy Goulet with the Peace River Aboriginal Interagency said as an Indigenous person in the area, it’s difficult to prove to non-Indigenous how the effects of residential schools affect families today.

“By having that official acknowledge shared in a public space, we’re making space for our future Indigenous kids growing up that they belong, they were here, they have every right to be here and be part of the community,” she said.

St. Augustine Mission was a residential school in 1888 to 1907. Up to 70 children attended the school at a time. After federal funding stopped, it continued to be operated by the Roman Catholic Church until the 1950s.

Peace River Museum
The St. Augustine Church stands along the Peace River. Photo: Tamara Pimentel/APTN

Today, the site sits next to the Peace River Correctional Centre, tucked away along the river banks just outside the city of Peace River.

For Goulet, recognition for this site is a long time coming.

“Maybe we can break a cycle instead of re-living the same over and over. That’s my hope,” Goulet said

“Sometimes knowing where you come from can make a big difference in where you’re going.”

Restoration of the mission will be competed in March 2021.

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