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Residential School History

The Impact of Colonization and a Proud Resurgence

“Since it was within the St. Eugene Mission School that the culture of the Kootenay Indian was taken away, it should be within that building that it is returned.” - Elder Mary Paul

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Elder Mary Paul
Residential school

Residential Schools in Canada

One of the government acts that continues to have a significant impact today was the establishment of residential schools. More than 130 schools were built and operated across the country, including one in the Ktunaxa territory.

The schools were part of a policy to assimilate Indigenous people into the non-Native population. This included attempts to extinguish Native language, spirituality and culture. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission has since called the government policy and actions at this time “cultural genocide.”

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A New Mission Rises

In 1973, the British Columbia government leased the Mission with the intent of turning it into a facility for psychiatric care. The building was stripped of its historic fixtures and artifacts, however, after spending $750,000 on renovations, the project was abandoned. The following winter, the pipes burst, flooding the building and causing severe damage. For the next 20 years, the building remained empty and abandoned, a constant reminder to the Ktunaxa people of a dark period in our history. But from the darkness, a new light began to shine.

“You lose something only if you refuse to pick it up again.”
Elder Mary Paul

Visionary Leadership and Guidance

In 1992, inspired by the powerful words of Elder Mary Paul, former Chief Sophie Pierre began the journey to reclaim the Mission building. Chief Pierre has been a dedicated driving force in reclaiming our heritage and the creation of St. Eugene Resort. As a past attendee of the Mission residential school herself and a recipient of the Order of Canada, Chief Pierre continues to be an inspirational leader who has been recognized for her role in the British Columbia treaty process and her commitment to the economic development of the First Nations.

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A Proud Resurgence

We believe in transformation and our ability to overcome adversity. We do not believe in hiding the past, rather we encourage the education of it. The story of St. Eugene Resort shows the resilience of the Ktunaxa people to come full circle and return to our roles as stewards of the land, looking to the future but never forgetting the past.

To our knowledge, this is the only project in the country where a First Nation reclaimed a former Indian residential school and turned it into an economic engine and resort for future generations to enjoy.

“We’re creating new memories for our children.”
Former Chief Sophie Pierre

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