Academic journal article Alberta History

My Life in an Indian Residential School

Academic journal article Alberta History

My Life in an Indian Residential School

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I was born Pauline Gladstone, No.142, of the Blood Indian Reserve, No. 142 being .my father's Treaty number. In 1934 I entered the boarding school on the Blood Reserve which was known as St. Paul's Anglican Indian Residential School. For eight years--to 1942--I lived at the residential school even though my home where my parents lived was only two miles away. I could see my home every day from any window in the school on the east side. Because I had entered the school at a young age, I knew no other life and so as the years went by the school was my home.

For two months of the year, in July and August, we were all allowed to go home and be with our parents during the summer holidays. I can tell you it was difficult for all of us to return to school in September, but on the other hand we were eager to meet our friends again whom we hadn't seen for two months. A few of the students who lived 40 miles away from the school or others who were orphaned remained at the school because they had no place to go.

Our summer consisted of being with our parents, attending such events as the Sun Dance on the reserve, fairs in Cardston or Lethbridge, and other fairs and rodeos. We visited with relatives back and forth. My mother, who was a very good cook, always prepared good meals for us. Even though this was during the dirty thirties, my parents never wanted for anything. Both my parents were very resourceful. My dad went in for mixed farming. He raised cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, geese, and in earlier times he was a sheep-herder. My mother always had a large garden. It was a family tradition to go on many outings where we went berry-picking for saskatoons, chokecherries, bull berries, and strawberries. There were wild strawberries along the railroad tracks where we used to go in the old horse and buggy. So we had plenty of fruits, jams, and jellies to supply us with sweets over the winter months.

I was just thinking the other day of my mother, of how she started preparing for the Christmas dinner as early as September. By this time, she had made the fruit cake and had all her preserves already done.

Dad had a cellar in our old house and so potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables were stored for the winter months. In the spring we used to find lizards in the dampness of the cellar and mother would haul them up from the cellar and kill them with salt. Dad killed and butchered his own meat and some of it mother cut, dried, and made into pemmican. She saved the suet to make dried powdered meat and mixed it with berries. The chokecherries wouldn't grind all that well through the meat chopper and so most of us suffered constipation because the berries were hard to digest but Oh! they were good.

Dad also cured his own pork and we had bacon and ham, and we all had to learn to milk the cows. From this milk, mother made butter, thick cream for our porridge, and whipped cream for our fruits and pies. Mother probably knew that our meals at the boarding were terrible for the most part and that's why she made it especially nice for us during the two months we were home. The summers were marvellous and I have wonderful memories that I cherish.

Most people can probably relate to all of these things during the depression as the situation was pretty well the same all over the country. And, you can also see how, when we returned to the school in September, it was so hard to get back to institutional food and institutional life.

There were approximately 100 boys and 100 girls at the school and all the food was cooked in large vats. We had porridge, soup, and stew--always we had stew, which is probably why most of us from that era suffered from gas! Any fat which was in the stew we fished out and used for butter for our bread. Whoever found a piece of fat would pass it on the next girl who then used it and passed it onto the next until it was used all up. …

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