Scale models illustrate residential school history in La Ronge

By Derek Cornet
October 16, 2018 - 5:00pm Updated: October 17, 2018 - 11:05am

Scale models of the All Saints Boarding Schools gave attendees a unique insight into the past at today's special presentation at the Alex Robertson Public Library.

“Everyone liked it,” model creator and presenter John Irving said. “It was my wife’s idea to build the models, so people would know what I’m talking about.”

While Irving gave an overall view of education in La Ronge, the All Saints Boarding Schools were a large focus. He noted the first school was built at the present urban reserve in La Ronge in 1905 and was designed for 25 students. A 32-by-42-foot extension in 1909 allowed for more classrooms space and a boys dormitory, and Irving added it housed up to 45 students when it burned down in 1920.

In that same year, Irving said the federal government committed to paying $25,250 to build a second school with a hospital, which was operating by 1922. The second school included a basement and was initially meant for 80 students, but Irving said some years the population fluctuated to as high as 126. After that school also burned down in 1947, students were transported to places like Prince Albert, where they stayed and studied in a renovated army barracks west of the city. 

“They didn’t have time to build a school, so they used an army barracks,” he said.

Irving, who is a Lac La Ronge Indian Band member, said he doesn’t consider himself to be a historian. He became interested in the schools' history after learning about his grandfather, Norman Irving, who worked in La Ronge for the Hudson Bay Company. Irving has also taken his models to places like Pre-Cam Community School and he said they really help generate an interest with young students.

Irving’s presentation was part of Saskatchewan Library Week, which began Monday across the province. A second noon-hour exhibit called The Birds and the Bees will happen Oct. 18 along with a staff and board appreciation day.


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Twitter: @saskjourno 

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