A History of the Rice Lake Indians by Mary Jane Muskratte Simpson

Industrial Schools

Industrial Schools at Alderville and Mount Elgin

In answer to questions proposed by the Commissioners in 1844 to the local superintendents and missionaries, Manual Labour Schools are strongly recommended as most likely permanently to improve the conditions of the Indian tribes in the Western section of the Province.

The idea entertained was, that by separating the Indian youth at an early age from the attractions and associations by which they would be surrounded at their parents' abodes, they might be brought more immediately under the control of civilizing and Christianizing influence. It was hoped that this would be affected by placing them in boarding schools devoted especially to this purpose, where, while imbibing habits of propriety and order, they might at the same time have the advantages of instruction in religion as well as in agricultural and handicraft trades.

The Commissioners in their reports recommended the establishment of such institutions, but without offering any suggestions as to the manner in which they could be supported.

The first practical step towards the formation of a fund for the maintenance of these schools seems to have been taken by Lord Metcalfe, who discontinued the issue of ammunition as presents to the Indians of the following tribes: Mississaugas of Alnwick; those of Rice Lake and of Mud Lake; Chippewas of Lake Huron and Simcoe; and of Saugeen.

The Sentinel-Star of June 14th, 1848 tells of the laying of the cornerstone of the Alderville Industrial School.

"On Saturday last the foundation-stone of the Industrial schoolhouse at Alderville was laid under the Superintendence of Capt. T. G. Anderson, S.I.A. by Chief John Simpson, and George Paudash, Chief of Rice Lake, Mud Lake, and Scugog Indians. There were 172 persons present, including Mr. Wm. Burnet, the contractor and architect, and Mr. Carveth, master mason. The utmost enthusiasm prevailed among the Indians assembled on the occasion. When the notification was given that the ceremony was ready to commence seven splendid flags were unfurled, and with drum and fife the procession proceeded to the spot selected for the building. After seeing the stone lowered into its bed, three cheers were given collectively and a great number individually.

After the ceremony of laying the cornerstone was completed the procession re-formed and headed by the band playing the National Anthem, proceeded to dine together in an adjoining field, where the table was laid under the shade of several beautiful maples. After the company, to the number of 170, were seated at the table, a hymn was sung by the whole assembly, and an appropriate prayer offered up by one of the Indians.

The dinner consisted of all the substantials and delicacies known in the vocabulary. The drinkables consisted of tea and coffee, but no whiskey, and with the solids, was done ample justice to. After dinner excellent and appropriate addresses were delivered by Paudash and Simpson, Chiefs; and the Superintendent, the last of which we took notes of, as follows:

"Brothers, I am truly glad to meet you at all times, but particularly so at present, because we are now assembled upon the most important occasion that ever dawned upon the Chippewa tribes of North America; the once dark forest with its multitude of inhabitants has fallen away 'til only here and there is found a solitary Indian camp, the remains of the once-mighty Lords of this continent - Brothers, I regret exceedingly that your worthy Minister and Principal of your school, the Rev. Wm. Case, is not here to take part in this pleasing task. But though absent on other duties, we know he is with us in spirit.

Already many of the young of both sexes of the Indians of Alnwick have received good educations. Through the Industrial School, they will obtain that additional practical knowledge which will make them valuable members of society."

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