Survivors Recall Residential School Experiences

Thursday, October 01, 2009 at 13:43



A Lac La Ronge Indian Band elder says eight years of being virtually cut off from his family after being sent to residential school was “devastating” — but he is choosing to forgive in order to heal.


Henry Roberts was supposed to attend the mission school in La Ronge, but when it burned down in 1947, he was sent instead to the one in Prince Albert — nearly 300 kilometres from his parents’ home at Sucker River.

Roberts spent nearly all of the next decade at the school — except for one Christmas, when his grandfather was able to find some cash to bring him back up north.


“Christmas Day I got to run his dogs. I was approximately 12 years old, and it was a great honour for me. I think he wanted me to be able to survive in the wilderness,” Roberts says.


Roberts had the opportunity to share some of his experiences — and hear others — at a reunion of Woodland Cree residential school students, yesterday in La Ronge.


Survivors walked from the site of the former mission school to the nearby Anglican church for a church service, took part in a candlelit vigil to remember those who never came home from the schools, and had an opportunity to see photos and talk with one another, as well as with support workers.