The school, formerly known as Horden Hall was located at Moose Factory, Ontario, about 200 miles south of Fort George Island. The village of Moosonee is situated only a few miles from Moose Factory, Cree of Ontario occupies both villages as we know.
Privileges at the school were very few and far in between, if any at all. The school property was fenced in and no children were allowed to go outside the fence without strict supervision. Boys and girls were not allowed to mingle with one another, let alone play with the kids in the village. We attended chapel services on a daily basis as well as eat and go to bed at specified times. Chores were also assigned to us every day of the school year.
Our stay at the residential school away from home seemed like an eternity. Sometimes, we left Fort George as early as August and did not return home until late June when the school year was over. Most of us never got to see our parents and relatives for ten months. There were times when some children lost family members during the school year and were never notified by the so-called school authorities. These children would only find out about their loved ones after they got back home. You can see some of the difficult circumstances we were faced with as residential children.
On school days every child had to attend classes. Of course, skipping school was out of the question since you had no place to hide if you wanted to play hooky. Like convicts, we were fenced in and always being watched at every move we made. One false move and you were severely punished. You could get a strapping from the principal or sent to bed without supper, just to mention a couple. Cree language was not allowed to be spoken in front of the school staff.
While we were at Moose Fort School there were no telephones where we could call home to our parents and ask for money. Besides, money in those days was very scarce. No roads led to Fort George for anyone to travel by vehicle. The only means of communication was by airmail. Even though the letters were personally addressed to the students, all our mail was opened by the school staff before it was given to us to read. One often wonders if every letter that was sent from back home was given to the children.
July and August were the only times we had to spend together with our families and friends. Before you knew it, time had gone by so fast that we had to leave for school again. We would hop on the plane (only form of transportation back then) never to see our families and friends for another ten months.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of what we experienced in residential schools.
Compared to what kids have to go through nowadays to go to school as opposed to what we went through in the late 50’s and early 60’s, they are very fortunate to be going to school in their own home environment. Hopefully, if the students read these experiences from the residential school days, they will realize how lucky they are to have a place they can call home each and everyday after school hours.
Moose Fort School