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 on Treaty 4 land. Lebret school has a long history as one of the first industrial schools to open and the last to close. Read more by clicking image above.

1932 Fire at Lebret/Qu’Appelle

A March 1932 inspection of the Qu’Appelle school noted that in two of the school furnace rooms, the pipe “leading from the furnace is almost burned through in places and should be renewed.” The inspector wrote that a fire could start easily in the paper-thin pipes used to conduct throughout the building.40 Later that year, a fire did start, originating in the wiring, rather than in the pipes. It destroyed the school.41 After the 1932 fire, the boys were moved to a nearby Oblate institution and the girls moved into the town hall of the village of Fort Qu’Appelle. Eleven months later, 125 girls were still in the town hall.

Inspector J. D. Sutherland described the town hall as “over-crowded, unsanitary, and a fire-trap. The girls are sleeping in bunks, 5 tiers deep, in the main building, while in the annex, sleeping in the loft, were 54 girls.” The main hall was used as a dining room, recreation room, and dormitory. There were no bathing facilities and the sanitary arrangements were “of the most primitive type.” According to Sutherland, “the odor in the building, mostly of creolin, used for disinfecting purposes, was nauseating.” In case of fire, he doubted anyone would escape alive. There was also danger of the outbreak of epidemics. In all his experience, he wrote, “I have never seen a situation such as is provided for the girls.” (The History, Part 1 Origins to 1939, Vol. 1, p.473)

Parental Resistance at Qu’Appelle School

The parents were at first suspicious of all that the school stood for. They did not wish their children to be brought up as white people, nor to accept their religion, lest they be separated from them in the world to come. The white mans medicine , they said, was bad for the Indians. They objected to the use of see-saws and swings, fearing that their children would break their necks. They were displeased at seeing them move in files, and charged that they were being made into soldiers. “Blowing into tubes”, by which they meant musical instruments, was also regarded with suspicion. (History of the Qu’Appelle Indian School by Sister G. Marcoux,1955, p. 11) Read more…

Girls at Lebret

In January 1884, Indian Affairs Deputy Minister Lawrence Vankoughnet informed Qu’Appelle principal Joseph Hugonard that if the school employed members of the Sisters of Charity (the Grey Nuns), “a few female students should be taken into the institution.” Click image to read more

Menu at Lebret

Menu at Lebret

Former Student Stories

Noel Starblanket (Click image to read)
Lorna Rope | Where are the children exhibit
Rita Watcheston | Where are the Children exhibit
Dillon Stonechild | Legacy of Hope
Wesley Keewatin | NCTR
Joseph Martin Larocque |NCTR

Joseph Martin Larocque said, “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. (Survivors Speak p. 87)

Blair Stonechild | The Catholic Register
Ochankuga’he – (Daniel Kennedy) | Recollections of an Assiniboine Chief
Louise (Trottier) Moine | Remembering Will Have to Do: The Life and Times of Louise (Trottier) Moine
Andrew Gordon requests to withdraw his daughter Edith from the school, claiming that the nuns and priests had pestered his other daughter about her father being a pagan while she was ill with pneumonia, causing her death. Click to read…
Clive Linklater, former student at St. Paul’s Indian High School in Lebret, Sask, became a teacher at Blue Quills Indian Residential School and wrote and spoke about the issue of integration in the 60s and issues related to the exclusion of “the founding Nations, the Indian and Inuit Nations, from the discussions lead by PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau around the Canadian Constitution in 1978.
Harold Greyeyes | A Typical School Day
David Greyeyes-Steele -“Between 1922 and 1933, David Greyeyes-Steele attended the Lebret Industrial Residential School, where he studied agriculture.” Click image to read more
Audrey Redmen | Truth and Forgiveness – The Daily McGill
Greg Rainville | NCTR
Lloyd Brass | Experience at Lebret
Elder Mike Pinay
This is Rick Pelletier, who attended the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School from 1965-1966. He was 7 years old. He was being beaten so badly — both by the nuns and by older students who themselves had been subjected to extreme physical violence — that when his parents went to take him back for his second year, he ran away. Later, his parents enrolled him at a local public school in Regina, but the experience was just as bad. Being one of the only First Nations students at school meant he was the object of bullying and racism. “I still don’t know which was worse.”
Gary Edwards, who attended the Ile-a-la-Crosse Indian Residential School from 1970 to 1973, St. Michael’s Indian Residential School from 1974 to 1976, and Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School from 1976 to 1978: “I remember after mass every Monday, the head priest would set a large mason jar on the podium. He and two helpers would lock the church doors, and then put on those 1930s canister gas masks. Then they’d open the mason jars and just watch us. We never knew what was happening, but within a few minutes kids would start vomiting or twitching or foaming at the mouth. Looking back, I don’t know, but I think it was mustard gas.”
Seraphine Kay
1953 Graduates of Lebret

Kerry Benjoe

Gates to IRS property at Lebret, Saskatchewan Photo credit: Shuana Niessen

Daya Madhur: Early in my artist residency at the University of Regina, I was invited to support the preservice education students on their professional development field trip to Fort Qu’Appelle where the history and beauty of the valley inspired my creative journey. As I reflected upon the landscape I often sought to personify the hills and question what they have seen and heard. When creating this performance piece I wanted to portray the complexity of the residential school experience in Lebret and Fort Qu’Appelle. Throughout the creation process I visualized layers as seen from my perspective, historic documents, the students’ lived experiences and Elder Starblanket’s narrative, soundscape recordings of the river valley, movement, and even the narrative told through the fabric in the dance. My heart lies in the interdisciplinary and I wanted to include all aspects of the fine arts in this project. The initial performance consisted of a dance/drama piece which interacted with the narratives and projected images. This version is a curated adaptation of the performance piece performed on April 14th, 2016 at the “Walking Together”: Day of Education for Truth and Reconciliation hosted by the University of Regina Faculty of Education and the National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR)

Westwind Evening’s “Whisper in the Wind”

“Westwind Evening, … attended a residential school—the Catholic-run Lebret Indian Residential School, in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Her testimony, though, was not about her own experience in the school, but rather about the brutalizing effects that residential schools have had on her family over generations.

A creative writer, Evening shared her truth in the form of a short story, “Whispers in the Wind,” that details the experiences of a girl growing up in a family haunted by addictions and dysfunction stemming from her mother’s time in a residential school. Read more…

Archdiocese of Regina: A History (Lebret)

Qu’Appelle Indian School marks 100 years


Click to see photo collection

Grey Nuns Archived Photo Collection