The Shingwauk Indian Residential School

The former Shingwauk Indian Residential School is located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, on Robinson-Huron Treaty Territory within 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 as a national historic site under the National Program of Historical Commemoration by the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRCS). The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, the SRCS and Parks Canada 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, which was reviewed by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

Opened in 1875 by the Anglican Church, Shingwauk Indian Residential School was part of the system of residential schools in Canada. This system was imposed on Indigenous Peoples by the federal government and certain churches or 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, who advocated for the education of his people with a vision of teaching Anishinaabe students to thrive in a rapidly changing society while preserving their language and culture. Over the course of its 96 years of existence, the residential school was a Shingwauk school in name only as Chief Shingwaukonse’s true vision was lost.

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 Indian Residential School site is one of the few surviving residential school sites where a number of preserved built and landscape elements continue to testify to the long history of the residential school system in Canada. The Shingwauk Cemetery contains 109 known burials, including 72 students who died between 1875 and 1956.

More than a thousand Indigenous children from Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies, and the Northwest Territories attended this school. Students were subjected 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 those who died while at the school never returned home. The far-reaching effects of the residential school experience continue to have significant impacts on former students, their families, and communities today.

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.

Learn about the Shingwauk Site though this map that was drawn by Rev. E.F. Wilson and published in the January 1890 issue of Our Forest Children.