The Shaping & Structuring of Space: Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre

CW: Residential Schools


Last Friday (May 28th, 2021), the remains of 215 Indigenous children (some as young as three years old) were found buried at a former Residential School near Kamloops, British Columbia.[1] In this week’s Shaping & Structuring of Space, we seek to commemorate and honour the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, located at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Originally built in 1832-33 as a Residential School, the building was transformed in 1979 into the Shingwauk Project, a space for healing, gathering, and sharing experiences.[2]

Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University. Credit: James Hopkin, “Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre Scores $9,000 Grant for Online Learning Resources,” SooToday, APril 28, 2021.

In 1832, the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre was commissioned as a Residential School by the Canadian government and the Anglican Church. It opened in 1833 in Sault Ste. Marie, relocated to Garden River from 1838 to 1874, and then relocated again to the current site in 1874.[3] Between 1874 and 1935, it was called the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Industrial Homes, then renamed to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School from 1935 to 1970.[4] In 1970, the Shingwauk Indian Residential School officially closed.

Shingwauk Indian Residential School. Credit: Brian Kelly, “Centre Gets National Award,” Owen Sound Sun Times, October 24, 2020.

In 1979, the Shingwauk Project was founded “by founding director, Professor Don Jackson, in collaboration with Dr. Lloyd Bannerman of AUC, Chief Ron Boissoneau (1935-2000) of Garden River, Shingwauk Alumnus and Elder Dr. Dan Pine Sr. (1900-1992) of Garden River, and other former Shingwauk and Wawanosh students and friends.”[5] They sought to work with the university and the Anglican Church to create “an institution that would promote the preservation and enhancement of Native culture” and ultimately “fulfil and complete the dream of Chief Shingwauk.”[6]

Chief Shingwaukonse, 1831. Credit: “Special Mission,” Algoma University.

Ojibway Chief Shingwaukonse (1773-1854) of Garden River had first travelled to York in 1832 “to consult with Lieutenant Governor Colborne concerning ‘what we should do about religion’” because various missionaries had attempted to convert them to different denominations.[7] Colborne sent a missionary of the Anglican Church back with Chief Shingwauk to Christianize and ‘teach’ them the ‘English ways’.[8] However, in 1871, Garden River was again “without a Christian missionary,” and Shingwauk’s son, Augustine Shingwauk, travelled to request a missionary be sent to them.[9] Both he and his father envisioned a ‘teaching wigwam’ in the form of a space for cross-cultural understanding and learning between Anishinabek knowledge and European settler knowledge.[10] However, what they received in 1832 and continued to have until 1970 was a Residential School.

Shingwauk Hall. Credit: Arthur A. Whishart Library at Algoma University.

The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre seeks to create Chief Shingwaukonse’s vision in the former Shingwauk Indian Residential School space at Algoma University. It is a collaboration between the Shingwauk Project, the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA), and the National Residential School Survivors’ Society, Algoma University, the Anglican Church, the Shingwauk Education Trust, and the Dan Pine Healing Lodge – among others – to accomplish “the true realization of Chief Shingwauk’s Vision.”[11] It is now a space of healing for all Indigenous Residential School Survivors and their descendants.[12] It also seeks to “research, collect, preserve and display the history of Residential Schools” in Canada for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to engage with and understand the history.[13] For a timeline, visit “Special Mission” at Algoma University.

Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre today, including the “Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall” exhibition (image 2). Credit: group of people in front of Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre from “Sharing, Healing and Learning,” Education Forum, June 16, 2017; Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre interior from “Shingwauk Residential School Site,” National Trust for Canada; logo from “Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre,” Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre.

 For more on the atrocities that the federal government, provincial governments, church members, and others committed in Residential Schools against Indigenous children and their families, see:

  • P. H. Bryce, The Story of a National Crime (Ottawa: James Hop & Sons, Limited, 1922), available here: http://caid.ca/AppJusIndCan1922.pdf.
  • J. R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of the Native Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).
  • J. R. Miller, Residential Schools and Reconciliation: Canada Confronts its History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017).
  • John S. Milloy, A National Crime (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2014).
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports available at http://www.trc.ca/resources.html.
  • Ian Mosby and Tracey Galloway, “‘Hunger Was Never Absent’: How Residential School Diets Shaped Current Patterns of Diabetes among Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” Canadian Medical Association Journal 189, no. 32 (2017): E1043-E1045.
  • Ian Mosby, “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942-1952,” Histoire Sociale 46, no. 91 (2013): 145-72.
  • Geoffrey Carr, “‘House of No Spirit’: An Architectural History of the Indian Residential School in British Columbia” (PhD thesis, University of British Columbia, 2011).
  • Geoffrey Carr, “Educating Memory: Educating the Remnants of the Indian Residential School,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada 34. no. 2 (2009): 87-101.
  • Magdalena Miłosz, “Instruments of Evidence: An Archive of the Architecture of Assimilation,” Journal of the Society for the Study of Architecture in Canada 40, no. 2 (2016): 3-10. (and other works)
Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre. Credit: “Shingwauk Indian Residential School,” Wikipedia.

– Catherine Ramey


[1] Holly Honderich, “Why Canada is Mourning the Deaths of 215 Children,” BBC News, June 2, 2021; Anna Mehler Paperny, “Remains of 215 Children Found at Former Indigenous School Site in Canada,” Reuters, May 29, 2021.

[2] “The Shingwauk Project,” The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, http://shingwauk.org/srsc/node/7.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] J. R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of the Native Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 4.

[7] Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision, 4.

[8] Ibid, 5.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, 5-6.

[11] “The Shingwauk Project,” The Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre, http://shingwauk.org/srsc/node/7.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

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