St. Mary’s – Mission
Which organizations were involved?
Roman Catholic Church
Dates of operation:
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Map of school and grounds:
How many children attended?
2,000 students attended over the course of the school’s operation.
1863; Small school for boys was opened, with a girls school coming into operation by 1868. Co-ed mission, but existed as separate schools, where the Sisters of Saint Ann ran the girls school.
Where were most of their children from?
Mainly Sto:lo people and others from the Fraser Valley.
Conditions at the school:
1800’s – very little abuse. Strapping became routine, then in 1960’s nightmarish abuses, many survivors have fond memories of time at St. Mary’s. Students were taught that their language & beliefs were ‘sins’. Boys & Girls had separate dormitories. Girls Residence housed the dormitories, nuns quarters, infirmary, recreation room & chapel. Dorms were further sectioned between the elementary & older students.
Curriculum and daily routine:
Early emphasis on academics and Catholic catechism, then a shift in the education to agricultural and industrial vocations. Mass, academics, sewing, ironing & laundry. Woodworking & Drafting. 1952: 6 students graduate with full grade 12 diplomas.
Visits were allowed, and families would camp around the school, as part of pilgrimages to St. Mary’s. Until 1948, students were allowed to go into Mission City.
Arrival at the school:
Students were assigned a locker, bed, and dormitory. Children were showered and checked for lice. Given two sets of clothes to be marked and worn.
Contemporary building use and people:
The school grounds are now a picnic area, stone foundations of long-gone buildings & cemetery. Empty of all buildings, now Fraser River Heritage Park. The Mission Indian Residence however is now used as Sto:lo gov’t offices leased from federal gov’t. 4/5’s of Aboriginal leadership within Sto:lo territory attended St. Marys School.
Glavin, Terry. “Amongst God’s Own: The Enduring Legacy of St. Mary’s Mission”. Mission Indian Friendship Centre: Mission BC., 2002.