The Residential School System is a topic that may cause trauma invoked by memories of past abuse. The Government of Canada recognizes the need for safety measures to minimize the risk associated with triggering. A National Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former residential school students. You can access information on the website or access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Large Building
Former Shingwauk Indian Residential School
© Parks Canada / Nathalie Ouellette

The Former Shingwauk Indian Residential School was designated a national historic site in April 2021.

Nominated by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre

The former Shingwauk Indian Residential School is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on Robinson-Huron territory on the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe and the Métis. The former school property encompasses the present campus of Algoma University and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (Shingwauk University). This site was nominated for designation by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC). Parks Canada, the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, and the SRSC worked collaboratively to identify the historic values of this former residential school, and co-developed the report on the students’ experiences and the history of the school for the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

The Residential School System

Opened in 1875 by the Anglican Church, Shingwauk IRS was part of the system of residential schools in Canada. This system was imposed on Indigenous Peoples by the federal government and certain churches and religious organizations, 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. From 1935 to its closure in 1970, the school was administered and funded by the federal government. The Anglican Church operated the school until 1969.

The school 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. 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.

The site and property

Shingwauk Hall, the school’s primary structure, was built in 1934-35 to replace the original school building which dated to the late-19th century. It is one of the few remaining residential school buildings in Canada. Other buildings and landscape elements related to the former school include the Shingwauk Memorial Cemetery (1876), Bishop Fauquier Memorial Chapel (1883), the former principal’s residence (1935), the former woodworking shop (1951), and Anna McCrea Public School (1956). The Shingwauk IRS site is one of the few surviving residential school sites with a notable ensemble of preserved built and landscape elements that continue to testify to the long history of the residential school system in Canada.

The mistreatment of students

More than a thousand Indigenous children from Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, and the Northwest Territories attended this school. Whether they were there by choice or coercion, 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.

A place of cultural reclamation

Since the closure of the school in 1970, the site has been a place of cultural reclamation and education. 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.

The National Program of Historical Commemoration relies on the participation of Canadians in the identification of places, events and persons of national historic significance. Any member of the public can nominate a topic for consideration by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Information on how to participate in this process is available on the National program of historical commemoration page.