Lebret (Qu’Appelle) Indian Industrial Residential School
The Lebret (Qu’Appelle, St. Paul’s, Whitecalf) Industrial School, (1884 – 1998) , operated by the Roman Catholic Church (Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Grey Nuns) from 1884 until 1973, was one of the first three industrial schools that opened following the recommendations of the Davin Report, and was fully funded by the government (Battleford was the other in what is now Saskatchewan). This school was located on the White Calf (Wa-Pii Moos-Toosis) Reserve, west of the village of Lebret in Treaty 4 territory. Lebret school has a long history as one of the first industrial schools to open and the last to close.
At the Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, school, Wesley Keewatin recalled, the staff would tip over a bed with the child still in it if they thought the child had wet the bed during the night. “If they were still sleeping they’d just grab their, their beds and flip them right over. You know they’d go flying.”187 Wendy Lafond said that at the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, school, “if we wet our beds, we were made to stand in the corner in our pissy clothes, not allowed to change.”188 (Survivors Speak, p. 60)
Wesley Keewatin said that at the Qu’Appelle school, students might have to kneel in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary for half an hour to an hour. Keewatin also recalled that at the Qu’Appelle school, a teacher he had thought had always treated him well slapped him so hard that he “went flying.” He attributed his deafness in one ear to this incident.496 (Survivors Speak, p. 142)
Wesley Keewatin said that when he attended the Qu’Appelle school, he found the routine strange at first, but soon adapted. But then older boys started coming into his bed at night.
And then they’d, they’d make me feel them and then they’d feel me, me up and then, it started, they started, oh how can I put this, is there any way to put it?They started sexually molesting me. They were, screwing my bottom and when, when it started happening, you know like I’d, I’d, I was confused, I was confused there because, you know like I had older brothers there and I said, “Okay, you know, I’m going to get these guys for doing that to me.” But they, they used to tell me … “Yeah, I know your brothers, you know, if you tell them, they’ll get a licking too,” you know. You know it went on like that for a long time.
And I used to tell and I used to tell the nuns that this was going on, this was happening to me. And what they’d tell me was, “Go pray; just go pray.” And, and that, oh that, that really confused me even more you know. It’s like they knew that it was going on but they, like who would, who would they believe? You know, like would they believe me or, or whoever I was pointing my, my finger at? You know because these older boys, they could certainly, most certainly deny it.
Keewatin told his parents of the abuse, but they continued to send him to the school. “It must have happened to them too because they’d always bring me back and, I figured, ‘Okay, you know, this is normal.’”648 (Survivors Speak, pp. 172-173)
Hazel Bitternose, who attended schools in Lestock and Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, said she enjoyed working in the priests’ dining room. “They had some good food there and I used to sneak some food and able to feed myself good there. So that’s why I liked to work there.”266 (Survivors Speak, p. 77)
They scared us. From the time I was small ’til the time the, the priest, the nuns, the whole thing, they scared everybody with dead people, and, you know, talking about the devil. And, and they had this little chart, catechism, where here’s you’re going up this road, and the, the roads are winding like this, and the, the devil’s with a pitchfork. I was scared for a long time.304 (Survivors Speak p. 87)
When she returned to the Qu’Appelle school after being sexually abused by a fellow student the year before, Shirley Brass decided to run away. She did not even bother to unpack her suitcase on the first day at the school.
I took it down to the laundry room and everybody was taking their suitcases down to wherever they kept them. I took my suitcase down. I told the nun, I said, “I have to do my laundry,” I said so I took it to the laundry room. I hid it there and that night this other girl was supposed to run away with me but everybody was going up to the dorm and I went and I asked her, “Are you coming with me?” And she said, “No, I’m staying.” So I said, “Well, I’m going.” So I left, went and got my suitcase and I sneaked out. I went by the lake. I stayed there for I don’t know how long. I walked by the lake and I sneaked through the little village of Lebret, stayed in a ditch. I saw the school truck passing twice and I just stayed there. I never went back. I hiked to—I had an aunt in Gordon’s Reserve so I went there. I had a brother who was living—a half-brother who was living with his grandparents in Gordon’s and he found me and somehow he got word to my mom and dad where I was and they came and got me. My dad wouldn’t send me back to Lebret so I went to school in Norquay, put myself back in Grade Ten. I didn’t think much of myself. I quit when I was [in] Grade Eleven in Norquay.463 Survivors Speak, pp. 133-134)
At the Qu’Appelle school, Raynie Tuckanow said, he witnessed staff committing sadistic acts of abuse.
But I know what they did. I know what they did to me and I know what they did to others, too. Looking up here, just like that up here, I watched the young man. They tied him. And I know him today, I see him today. They tied him by his ankles and they tied him to the [heat] register and they put him out the window with a broomstick handle shoved up his ass. And I witnessed that.548 (Survivors Speak, p. 154)