The site of the former residential school St. Augustine Mission in Peace River is receiving some landscaping upgrades, funded by the federal Department of Canadian Heritage. According to Laura Love, Curator at the Peace River Museum Archives and Mackenzie Centre, the idea is to better recognize the history and legacy of residential schools.
“There’s a lot of reconciliation, we believe, that can be done in our community. We’re hoping that this grant facilitates that.”
“With this project, we are hoping to redevelop or relandscape the former residential school property of St. Augustine Roman Catholic Mission on Shaftesbury Trail. We’re hoping that with this landscape project that we will open the grounds, of course in partnership with the Government of Alberta, and promote land-based learning on former residential school property,” explains Love.
St. Augustine Mission was a residential school until 1907, but, after federal funding stopped, it continued to be operated by the Roman Catholic Church until December 1950. Of the original 13 buildings which occupied the site, only the church built-in 1894 and a barn built in 1930 remain.
The landscaping plan, Love explains, is to outline three of the former buildings including the Priests’ Residence, the school, and the laundry house to provide a better sense of the scale of a residential school to passing visitors.
“There really isn’t a visual of how massive this mission was, and that is what we are hoping to do by outlining some of the former buildings.”
“We’re hoping that everyone, whether you’re a visitor to the Peace River region or if you’re a longstanding resident, that when this land is open to visitors that we’re able to create more of a connection between the land and the people on the property,” she says.
The Peace River Museum also does do tours of the site and cemetery in the summer as part of its educational programs.