The most important source of information we have about the history of Indian Residential Schools, which includes hostels and day schools, are the stories and experiences of former students. For this reason, interviews are a critical part of the research we are doing for How I Survived: Recreation at Northern Residential Schools. However, we are also conducting archival research for this project.
Most of the records that document the history of residential schools, hostels, and day schools in the NWT were produced by politicians, bureaucrats, school administrators, and teachers. They include things like policies, annual reports, quarterly returns, financial records, and correspondence.
There are very few records produced by students while they were at northern residential schools, hostels, and day schools. One exception is yearbooks.
Yearbooks were often made by a committee of students, though with involvement from school staff. School yearbooks are particularly good sources for studying the history of recreation because they include images of and information about extracurricular activities including choirs and bands, clubs, outings, sports teams, and special events. They also often feature student artwork and creative writing.
Most of the yearbooks the research team has seen thus far are from Sir Alexander Mackenzie School (SAMS) and Samuel Hearne Secondary School in Inuuvik/Inuvik. Some of these belong to the Aurora Research Institute and Centennial Library in Inuuvik; others are part of a private collection. There is a small collection of yearbooks from Sir John Franklin High School and Akaitcho Hall in Sǫ̀mba K’è/Yellowknife at the NWT Archives, and a similarly sized collection of yearbooks from Joseph Burr Tyrell School at the Mary Kaeser Library in Tthebacha/Fort Smith. There are a handful of NWT yearbooks from Grandin College and Grollier Hall that are available online through the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre in Baawitigong/Sault St. Marie.
So far, we have not come across any yearbooks from Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́/Fort Simpson. We are not sure if this is because the day schools and hostels in Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ did not make yearbooks or if it is because they are not part of an institutional archive. We have also only found one yearbook from a federal day school outside of a regional centre: a yearbook from the Sachs Harbour Day School (1968–69) that is housed at the NWT Archives.
Do you have a yearbook (or yearbooks) from your time at residential school, hostel, and/or day school? Were you part of the yearbook committee? We are interested in seeing more yearbooks, but also in understanding how the yearbook was a part of school life.
To share your yearbook or your story, please contact the project co-leads:
Jess Dunkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (867) 669-8375,
or Dr. Crystal Fraser at email@example.com.