Description of Historic Place
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The Former Shingwauk Indian Residential School National Historic Site of Canada is located on Robinson-Huron treaty territory on the traditional homelands of the Anishinaabe and the Métis, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The former school property encompasses the present campus of Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig.
The residential school was established by the Anglican Church and ran from 1875 to 1970. In 1935, the church transferred its property and administration to the federal government while maintaining responsibility for its operation. The main building known as Shingwauk Hall was built in 1934-35 to replace the original school and was designed in a style common for residential schools during that period.
Remaining built and landscape elements include a chapel, a cemetery, the former principal’s residence, the former woodworking shop, and a public elementary school (Anna McCrae). Since the school’s closure, its site has been used for cultural reclamation, cross-cultural education and learning, and reinterpreted as a place for healing and reconciliation.
Official recognition refers to the limits of the property bordered on the north by the southern limits of Wellington Street East, Sault St. Marie, and on the south by the high-water mark of the north bank of the St. Mary’s River. The site’s boundaries aligning closely with the limits of the original residential school property acquired in 1874.
The Former Shingwauk Indian Residential School was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2021. It was recognized because:
• established on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe and the Métis, it was named after prominent Anishinaabe Chief Shingwaukonse, whose vision for a school where Anishinaabe students could acquire European- based knowledge and skills that would enable them to thrive in a rapidly changing society led to the establishment of earlier schools in the region;
• opened in 1875 by the Anglican Church, it was part of the system of residential schools in Canada that was imposed on Indigenous Peoples by the federal government and Christian churches who worked together in a deliberate effort to assimilate Indigenous children and convert them to Christianity by separating them from their families, cultures, languages, and traditions. In 1935, and until its closure in 1970, the school was administered by the federal government and continued to be operated by the Anglican Church until 1969;
• over the course of its 96 years of existence it was a Shingwauk school in name only as Chief Shingwaukonse’s true vision was lost. More than a thousand Indigenous children from Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, and the Northwest Territories attended school here. Whether they were here by choice or coercion, all students were subject to a regimented daily routine that involved working to maintain the school while facing severe discipline and abuse, harsh labour, emotional neglect, inadequate nutrition, poor healthcare, and poor living conditions. Siblings remained separated by gender and age, and Indigenous languages were forbidden; many students spent their entire childhoods at the school and some never returned home. The far-reaching effects of the residential school experience continue to have significant impact on former students, their families, and communities today;
• Shingwauk Hall, the school’s primary structure, built in 1934-35 to replace the original school building which had become dilapidated, is one of the few remaining examples of an Indian Residential School building in Canada. Designed by R.G. Orr, Chief Architect for the Department of Indian Affairs, it is a representative example of a residential school designed in the Collegiate Gothic style. Its imposing size, institutional appearance, bleak Gothic ornamentation, and rigid spatial separation reinforced the government’s goals of assimilation in its stylistic references to European educational institutions. For students, the school’s design further amplified feelings of fear and isolation;
• it is one of the few surviving residential school sites comprised of a notable ensemble of preserved built and landscape elements that continue to testify to the long history of the residential school system in Canada. At Shingwauk, these elements include the Shingwauk Memorial Cemetery (1876), Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel (1883), Shingwauk Hall (1934-35), the former principal’s residence (1935), the former woodworking shop (1951), and Anna McCrea Public School (1956);
• it has been a site of cultural reclamation and education since the closure of the school in 1970. For decades, Algoma University, Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (Shingwauk University), the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, and their partners have been committed to the restoration of the true intent and spirit of Chief Shingwaukonse’s vision, cross-cultural education and learning, and the reinterpretation of the site as a place for healing and reconciliation.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, December, 2020
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location in Sault Ste. Marie within a low density, suburban area, at the centre of Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig and Algoma University campuses, on a rectangular property bound to the north by Wellington Street and to the south by the St. Mary’s River;
- Shingwauk Hall’s location on its original lot, its strong visual presence from the main artery of Queen Street East, and the spatial relationship of the five historical buildings and cemetery to each other and to the river;
- the tree-lined driveway leading from the Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel towards the former principal’s residence;
- Shingwauk Hall’s imposing two-and-a-half storey red-brick Collegiate Gothic style with gothic ornamentation, Beaux-Arts plan, monumentality, symmetrical three-part composition, regular fenestration, high double gable roof, a series of dormers with gable projecting eaves at the attic level, tyndall limestone ogee arch, eared lintel principal entranceway and original doors, and spire;
- Shingwauk Hall’s E-shaped plan, the basic layout of the ground, and first floors with their long central corridor with rooms off either side and large spaces (some already divided) in the wings, which reflect the original layout of the school; the staircases at both ends of the central corridor, used separately by boys and girls;
- Shingwauk Hall’s Auditorium/Assembly Hall, it’s original interior finishes including the woodwork on the ceiling and original floors;
- the Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel’s Tudor-Gothic style, local red sandstone construction, including high-pitched gable roofs, arched windows and entranceways, finials and belfry, and stained glass windows. Its interior spatial arrangement, pulpit, alter, pews, and wood trusses;
- the setting of the Shingwauk Memorial Cemetery within a small forest, its flagstone retaining walls, any remaining headstones, and the cairn that memorialises those interned at or near the cemetery;
- the one-storey woodworking workshop, which has retained its footprint, massing, and use.
- the Georgian Revival one-and-a-half storey red brick former principal’s residence with its symmetrical composition, central entrance and design elements which reference Shingwauk Hall such as the tyndall limestone ogee arch;
- the L-shaped International Style Anna McCrea Public School with its flat roof, massing, and minimal decoration;
- a cairn of reclaimed stones from the original Shingwauk Home dedicated to Reverend Edward Francis Wilson, founding principal of the Shingwauk Home and a granite memorial with bronze plaque that mark the site and cemetery as a memorial to all those who attended Residential School in Canada.