Skip to content

Monument recognizing local residential school founders set to receive heritage designation

In the first five years of the Wawanosh school for girls, 83 per cent of its students either died or left

A bylaw granting heritage designation to a sandstone monument at 96 Great Northern Road is expected to be approved Monday by City Council.

Here's how the monument's significance is described in the official description attached to the proposed bylaw:

The Wawanosh Monument is a small monument made of local sandstone dedicated to Rebecca and George Hardeman the first matron and superintendent of the Wawanosh home. The monument is located at the intersection of Great Northern Road and Willoughby Street by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 and was built and dedicated in 1967 by the Women’s Tarentorus Institute.

"The cultural context of the monument is more important than the monument itself," says Madison Bifano from the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University.

"The monument commemorates the location of the former Wawanosh Indian Residential School, which was constructed by Reverend E.F. Wilson in 1879 and was named after Chief Wawanosh, a prominent Chippewa chief and veteran of the War of 1812. The Wawanosh Home was the first iteration of a girl’s residential school in the area and was built to accommodate Aboriginal girls due to a lack of space for female students at Shingwauk Residential School," Bifano said in her application for heritage designation.

An application was approved by the municipal heritage committee on March 3.

City Council agreed to the heritage designation on May 10, 17 days before the announcement that remains of 215 children had been discovered at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

If the enacting bylaw is approved Monday by Sault councillors, the city will be declaring the monument as being of "significant cultural heritage value and interest" and worthy of protection under the Ontario Heritage Act.

An 1883 report found that 83 per cent of girls who attended the Wawanosh school either died or left the school within five years.

The building was demolished in 1965.

"The monument serves as a reminder of what once stood on the site, and of the legacy of the residential school system in Sault Ste. Marie and Canada," says the application report to City Council.

"Designating the monument as a heritage property would fall under the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action 79, which calls for the commemoration of residential school sites and history and working with Indigenous organizations to recognize what has happened."

Monday’s City Council meeting will be livestreamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.