Calgary

'A war on Aboriginal children': Alberta's 25 residential schools

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement recognized 25 residential school locations in Alberta.

This article includes links to lists of students known to have died or gone missing while attending school

At the Blue Quills Residential school, parents complained that 'children are abused and frequently leave school on account of severity of teachers.' (Provincial Archives of Alberta )

WARNING: This article is about residential schools, a topic that may be triggering and distressing to those dealing with past trauma. A national 24-hour Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.


"Those schools were a war on Aboriginal children."

Those words, included in the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), were spoken by Doris Young, a residential school survivor.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement recognized 25 residential school locations in Alberta, which are listed below. That number excludes schools that operated without federal support, such as those run by religious orders or provincial governments. Some schools also underwent name changes or were relocated.

Many of the details in this article come from the University of Manitoba's National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation's  (NCTR) Archives.

Included for each school is a link to the NCTR Archive's National Student Memorial, a list of students known to have died or gone missing at the institution.

Those lists are certainly not complete.

For many of the facilities, the archives also include School Narratives, which are detailed histories of the institutions, including documented instances of abuse (physical and sexual), disease outbreaks, neglect, student pregnancies and, in some circumstances, criminal charges laid against school staff. 

1. Assumption Residential School

Assumption Indian Residential School was run by the Catholic Church and was located on the south end of the Hay Lake Reserve in northwest Alberta. (Deschatelets-NDC Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1951-1974.
  • Location: South end of the Hay Lake Reserve, nearly 900 km northwest of Edmonton.
  • First Nation community(ies): Dene Tha' First Nation.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Unknown.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 

2. Blue Quills Residential School

Blue Quills School, St. Paul, Alta., operated from 1935 to 1990. (Provincial Archives of Alberta)
  • Dates in operation: 1898-1990.
  • Location: Lac La Biche, 200 km northeast of Edmonton, from 1891 to 1898 (then known as Lac la Biche Boarding School). Saddle Lake, 170 km northeast of Edmonton, from 1898-1931. Then the school moved 20 km to the east, near St. Paul. 
  • First Nation community(ies): Saddle Lake, Beaver Lake, Cold Lake, Goodfish (Whitefish) Lake, Frog Lake, Heart Lake, Kehewin. Students from the Onion Lake area (50 km north of Lloydminster) also attended.
  • Number of students forced to attend: The school saw an enrolment low of 40 in the late 1890s to a high of about 200 children attendees in 1961.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

3. Crowfoot Residential School 

Crowfoot Indian Residential School was originally located at Blackfoot Crossing and operated from 1900 to 1968. (Provincial Archives of Alberta)
  • Dates in operation: 1900-1968.
  • Location: Blackfoot Crossing until 1909. Later, the institution was located on the Blackfoot Reserve, 100 km east of Calgary.
  • First Nation community(ies): Blackfoot Indian Reserve, Peigan Reserve. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: The school saw as few as five students in 1900 to a high of 300 in 1962.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 

4. Desmarais Residential School (St. Martin's)

Desmarais Residential School operated from 1902 to 1973 on the north shore of Wabasca Lake. This image shows a new school building being opened in 1959. That year, there were 93 children in residence. (Library and Archives Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1902-1973.
  • Location: North shore of Wabasca Lake, 300 km north of Edmonton.
  • First Nation community(ies): Until 1960, most children were from the Bigstone Band. After 1960, children from 30 other surrounding communities were enrolled at the school.
  • Number of students forced to attend: The institution saw a low of 10 students the year it opened to a high of 136 children enrolled in 1967.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

5. Edmonton Residential School 

Edmonton Indian Residential School was located near the town of St. Albert and operated for 44 years, until 1968. (Library and Archives Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1924-1968.
  • Location: The school was located off reserve, near St. Albert.
  • First Nation community(ies): Students primarily came from the Saddle Lake, Hobbema and Edmonton Agencies. The school also housed children from other Alberta communities as well as students from other provinces and territories.
  • Number of students forced to attend: The year the school opened, 60 students were enrolled but the total grew quickly to more than 100 for nearly every year (peaking with more than 200 in the the 1929-30 school year) until it closed in 1968.
  • Operated by: United Church.
  • More: 

6. Ermineskin Residential School

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Wilton Littlechild was taken from his grandparents at age six and sent to the Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest in Canada. It operated from 1895 to 1975. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre/UBC)
  • Dates in operation: 1895-1975.
  • Location: Just west of what is now called Maskwacis, about 80 km south of Edmonton.
  • First Nation community(ies): Many students were from the Ermineskin Cree Nation. Students from the other three Maskwacis bands: Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana First Nation.
  • Number of students forced to attend: ERS was one of the largest residential schools in Canada. In 1956, enrolment peaked at 263 students. 
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

7. Fort Vermilion Residential School (St. Henry's Indian Residential School)

Fort Vermilion Indian Residential School was located in Fort Vermilion on the Peace River and operated from 1903 to 1968. (Deschatelets-NDC Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1903-1968.
  • Location: Fort Vermilion on the Peace River.
  • First Nation community(ies): Tallcree First Nation and surrounding communities.
  • Number of students forced to attend: In 1959, there were 205 students enrolled at the school, many of whom were Métis. 
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

8. Grouard Residential School/St. Bernard's

The Grouard Residential School, also known as St Bernard's, was operated by the Catholic Church from 1894 to 1957. (Deschatelets-NDC Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1894-1957.
  • Location: West Side of Lesser Slave Lake in Grouard, about 170 km northeast of Grande Prairie.
  • First Nation community(ies): Mostly Métis and other Indigenous students from the Grouard area (near High Prairie), where Kapawe'no First Nation is headquartered. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: In 1945, there were 123 students, about 100 of whom were Métis.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

9. Holy Angels (Fort Chipewyan)

Convent of Holy Angels Indian Residential School, church and mission, Fort Chipewyan, ca. 1930. (Library and Archives Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1900-1974.
  • Location: Western shore of Lake Athabasca on the outskirts west of Fort Chipewyan.
  • First Nation community(ies): Mikisew Cree First Nation, Métis students from Fort Chipewyan.
  • Number of students forced to attend: By the 1960s, upward of 140 children per year were enrolled at Holy Angels.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 

10. St. Bruno's/Joussard

St. Bruno's/Joussard Residential School was operated by the Catholic Church from 1913 to 1969. (archives.nctr.ca)
  • Dates in operation: 1913-1969.
  • Location: South shore of the Lesser Slave Lake.
  • First Nation community(ies): Students were mainly from the Sucker Creek and Driftpile Reserves with other children coming from up to 20 neighbouring communities.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Student enrolment ranged from a low enrolment of 35 students in 1914 to an average high of 130 from 1955 to 1959.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 

11. Lac La Biche Residential School/Notre Dame des Victoires

The 1896 class pictured with one of the oblate priests from Lac La Biche Residential School (also known as Notre Dame des Victoires). (Provincial Archives of Alberta)
  • Dates in operation: 1893-1998.
  • Location: South shore of Lac La Biche.
  • First Nation community(ies): Métis, Cree and Dene students in the Lac La Biche area attended the school.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Unknown.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 
  • More: National Student Memorial.

12. Lesser Slave Lake Residential School/St. Peter's School

Lesser Slave Lake Indian Residential School (also known as St. Peter's) operated from 1895 to 1932 under the Anglican Church administration. (Anglican General Synod Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1895-1932.
  • Location: This site is found along Shaftsbury Trail near the town of Peace River.
  • First Nation community(ies): Many of the students were Métis from the area. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: The church had an authorized enrolment of 35 students per year. 
  • Operated by: Anglican Church.
  • More: 

13. Morley Residential School

The residential school on the Stoney Reserve, in Morley, Alta., operated from 1922 to 1969. (Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary )
  • Dates in operation: 1922-1969.
  • Location: Near Morley, just west of Calgary. 
  • First Nation community(ies): Majority of students were from Stoney bands: Wesley, Chiniquay and Bearspaw; but in 1960-1961, children from the Crooked Lake Agency and Qu' Appelle Agency in Saskatchewan also attended Morley IRS.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Student enrolment ranged from 56 to 95 per year, peaking in the in 1940s and 1950s.
  • Operated by: Methodist United Church.
  • Conviction: Teacher Robert George Pooley, who worked at the IRS IN 1962 and 1963, was convicted for "homosexual offences against Indian pupils." He was also found guilty on one count of indecent assault on a male on Sept. 25, 1963. 
  • More:

14. Old Sun Residential School (Blackfoot)

Blackfoot children attended the Old Sun Residential School located near Gleichen. It operated from 1886 to 1971. (Anglican General Synod Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1886-1971.
  • Location: Blackfoot Reserve (Siksika Nation) within the Treaty 7 area about 6 km from the town of Gleichen.
  • First Nation community(ies): Students were from the Blackfoot Reserve, Blood Band, the Peigan Band and from the Crowfoot Reserve.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Enrolment peaked in the 1940s through to the 1960s with about 100 to 140 students attending each year. 
  • Operated by: Anglican.
  • Convictions: William Peniston Starr was an instructor at Old Sun in the 1950s. In 1992, he was convicted of 13 counts of sexual and indecent assault of children at Gordon's Residential School in Saskatchewan (offence dates of 1968 to 1983). According to the NCTR, records show Starr was transferred to another school from Old Sun IRS because of "trouble" between him and the gym tumbling team he was training.
  • More:

15. Sacred Heart Residential School 

Sacred Heart (Peigan) Residential School was located on the Peigan Reserve, southwest of Lethbridge, and operated from 1887 to 1961. (Provincial Archives of Alberta)
  • Dates in operation: 1887-1961
  • Location: Peigan Reserve, southwest of Lethbridge.
  • First Nation community(ies): Peigan. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: An enrolment low of eight students was registered in 1896 with a high of 91 in 1955.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More:

16. St. Albert Residential School (Youville)

St. Albert Residential School (Youville) operated from 1873 to 1948 and was located in St. Albert, just northwest of Edmonton. (Deschatelets-NDC Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1873-1948.
  • Location: St. Albert, northwest of Edmonton.
  • First Nation community(ies): The school was originally established for Métis children.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Enrolment numbers show a low of about 25 in 1876 to a high of 171 in 1941.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More:

17. St. Augustine Residential School (Smoky River)

St. Augustine Residential School (Smoky River) was run by the Catholic Church and was located on the north shore of the Peace River northwest of Edmonton. (Deschatelets-NDC Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1900-1907.
  • Location: North shore of the Peace River, northwest of Edmonton.
  • First Nation community(ies): 
  • Number of students forced to attend: The school had a maximum enrolment of 50 to 60 students.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

18. St. Cyprian's Residential School

St. Cyprian's Indian Residential School in Brocket around 1941. At first, the institution was located on the Peigan Reserve west of Lethbridge. The new school was located approximately 16 km west of the reserve near the railway station at Brocket. (Library and Archives Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1890-1961.
  • Location: On the Peigan reserve west of Lethbridge.
  • First Nation community(ies): Peigan Band.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Enrolment peaked in the 1950s with about 60 children in residence annually. 
  • Operated by: Church of England.
  • More: 

19. St. Joseph's Residential School (Dunbow)

St. Joseph's Indian Industrial School, in High River, ca. 1896. The school operated from 1884 to 1922. (Library and Archives Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1884-1922.
  • Location: High River. 
  • First Nation community(ies): Children from Indigenous communities across Alberta. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: 430 children attended over the school's 38-year existence. 
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

20. St. Mary's Residential School 

St. Mary’s Indian Residential School was in operation for 90 years on the Blood Reserve south of Lethbridge. (Galt Museum & Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1898-1988.
  • Location: Blood (Kainai Nation) Reserve southwest of Lethbridge.
  • First Nation community(ies): Blood, Peigan. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: In the 1950s, the school saw its highest enrolment 250 to 320 children per year. 
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic.
  • More: 

21. St. Paul's Residential School 

St. Paul's Residential School on the Blood Reserve operated from 1893 to 1975. (Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary )
  • Dates in operation: 1893-1975.
  • Location: Blood (Kainai Nation) Reserve, south of Lethbridge. 
  • First Nation community(ies): Students at St. Paul's were mostly from the Blood Reserve.
  • Number of students forced to attend: By 1925, more than 100 students per year were enrolled. In 1976, the institution saw its highest enrolment with 173 residents.
  • Operated by: Anglican Church.
  • More: 

22. Sarcee Residential School (St. Barnabas)

The Sarcee Indian Residential School was located on the Tsuut’ina Reserve, on the southwest outskirts of Calgary. (Anglican Church of Canada)
  • Dates in operation: 1892-1921.
  • Location: On the Sarcee (Tsuut'ina) Reserve just on the southwest outskirts of Calgary.
  • First Nation community(ies): Sarcee.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Unknown, but a medical survey done in 1920 found that of the 33 students "all but four were infected with tuberculosis."
  • Operated by: Anglican Church.
  • More: 

23. Sturgeon Lake Residential School 

St. Francois Xavier Boarding School near Calais, Alta., was opened in 1905. A new school was constructed in 1910 and again in 1922. (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation)
  • Dates in operation: 1907-1961.
  • Location: Calais, on the shore of Sturgeon Lake.
  • First Nation community(ies): Students came from the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation. 
  • Number of students forced to attend: Unknown. The National Student Memorial Register lists 26 children who died there.
  • Operated by: Roman Catholic. 
  • More: 

24. St. John's Residential School (Wabasca)

The Wabasca Indian Residential School was nearly 300 km north of Edmonton. It operated for 64 years, closing in 1966. (Anglican General Synod Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1902-1966.
  • Location: Southeastern shore of North Wabasca Lake alongside Wabasca Indian Reserve.
  • First Nation community(ies): Wabasca, Bigstone Band.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Enrolment in 1907 was seven students, but by 1963 it had grown to more than 100 children per year residing at the school. 
  • Operated by: Anglican Church.
  • More: 

25. Whitefish Lake Residential School (St. Andrew's)

Whitefish Lake Indian Residential School operated for 42 years. In 1942, it housed 40 children and four staff. (Anglican General Synod Archives)
  • Dates in operation: 1908-1950.
  • Location: Northwest of Edmonton, on the northeastern shore of Little Whitefish Lake.
  • First Nation community(ies): Whitefish Lake First Nation.
  • Number of students forced to attend: Enrolment was between 29 and 51 children annually. 
  • Operated by: Anglican Church.
  • More: 

Support is available for anyone affected by the effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.


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