When residential schools were established for Native people in Canada by the government of Sir John A. MacDonald, there were resisters.
This is a letter from an Indian agent to a store clerk in Calling Lake Alberta on July 24th, 1935. It was a request to have monthly rations for J.B Gambler cut off as punishment for removing his children from the Wabasca residential school.
The letter says:
Dear Sir, Last winter J.B. Gambler, an Indian of Calling Lake, has taken his children away from the Wabasca R.C. School without the assent of the Principal and when the Magistrate acting as Truant Officer went to him to regain possession of the children he used abusive language and threatened to shoot him.
As the above mentioned J.B. Gambler is in receipt of a monthly ration, I have to order that the same be cut off entirely until such time as I am able to reverse my decision. This cannot be expected until the children are back at school at Wabasca and Gambler’s amends presented to the Principal and Magistrate there.
Your account dated 7th of July is being passed as submitted.
Yours faithfully, W.P L’Heureux, Indian Agent.
At the time Native people were not allowed to leave the reserves without the permission of the local Indian Agent.
Unable to leave the reserve, rations were a heavy hammer to wield, forcing people to send their children to the residential schools so they were fed.
The letter provides stark evidence of the price paid by Native parents who did not comply with the residential school system.
The letter was found in a shed by Gwen Schmidt in July 2014, in Calling Lake, Alberta. She showed it to Curtis Cardinal, who shared the letter from his great-great-great grandfather Jean-Baptiste Gambler on his Facebook page.
Cardinal and his family members don’t believe the Gambler children ever returned to residential school.
The Wabasca Residential School — also known as St. John’s Indian Residential School — was operational in Alberta between 1895 and 1966, under Anglican denomination.
By: Black Powder