Renaming the Past, Reclaiming Their Stories: Indigenous Records at the South Peace Regional Archives

Flying Shot Lake School. [ca. 1918] Part of SPRA 0032.08.08.0939 Campbell Family fonds.

The South Peace Regional Archives initiated a survey of the region’s holdings in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call to actions to locate records within our holdings related to Indian Residential Schools. We found very few records related to residential schools, but we did find several records related to Indigenous people and communities in our region. We decided to expand the scope of our research to look for any records related to Indigenous peoples within our holdings.

Thanks to the efforts of staff and volunteers, we now have a small database of material to share. While we pursue avenues of access, we would like to start sharing some of these images and documents.

The caption on the back of this photograph reads: “Flying Shot school & some of the pupils. The boy at the right is the only white one.” Our notes about the photograph state that the majority of students at the school were Metis. The writer of the caption is likely teacher Margaret McDonald.

According to our records, the Catholic brothers at St. Vincent’s Mission on the banks of Bear Creek initially taught lessons to the local Indigenous children starting in 1908. In 1910, the town site for Grande Prairie was laid out on the other side of the Creek and public, one-room schoolhouses started popping in the town and in Flying Shot Lake. All the local Indigenous children went to those schools, including the one pictured here. We do not know if the children pictured here are really Métis, Cree, Iroquois, or Beaver largely because we do not know their names.

We do know that according to the agency history for the related fonds (077 Flying Shot Lake School District 3399 fonds), this building was located on the Clifford place and was also the home and hospital ran by Reverend and Mrs. Forbes. The building also served as the courthouse for Grande Prairie. Our records also tell us that prior to the official opening of this school, Maude Clifford taught school to the local Cree, Beaver, Métis, and white children from the area.

If you think you know who some of these children might be or who their families were, we would love to hear from you.  Please contact us at info@southpeacearchives.org or 780-830-5105.