Manitoba Looks to Rename a School after a Link to Residential Schools Was Found

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Manitoba chief, Shirley Ducharme, said that she intends to change the name of a school. This was following the discovery that the school’s name was borrowed from an individual who played a crucial role in the residential school system.

The school in question is Oscar Blackburn School. It’s situated in South Indiana Lake, a community of about 1,000 residents. Its classes run from Nursery to Grade 10. 

Ducharme stated that the discovery of the school’s association with residential schools only came about after the remains of 215 kids were located at the site of a former Indian Residential School, Kamloops, B.C.

A letter, traced back to the 1960s, and one which was just recently discovered, shed light on the matter. It revealed that Blackburn participated in the admission of First Nations kids to residential institutions. 

Before the discovery of the letter, she was only aware of Blackburn being regarded as among the first teachers in the community. 

As soon as the letter came to light, Frontier School Division was informed about the impact it had created on the residents of the community.

The Division’s Chief Superintendent, Reg Klassen, reported that Blackburn’s sign had already been removed, paving the way for the new school’s name.

Chief Arlen Dumas, who serves as the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said in a statement that they wholly support the decision. 

Sean Carleton emphasized the relevance of making such a decision to rename a school. Carleton is an assistant professor in the History and Indigenous Studies’ department at The University of Manitoba.

In his opinion, deciding the people who will be acknowledged in public areas – by naming areas after them- is one way of communicating what’s important to future generations. 

Klassen said the community would be given an opportunity to propose the new name for Blackburn. Ducharme stated that alongside renaming the school, the emphasis would also be placed on helping residential school survivors heal. 

A support system has been put in place for anyone impacted by their encounter at residential schools as well as those who may be affected by the recent events relating to the same.

Call 1-866-925-4419, in case you need emotional and crisis referral services.

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