This site holds over 5,500 records documenting the history of 25 residential schools that operated in Alberta for over a century. These 25 are the schools recognized in the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Based on the IRSSA, the earliest school the site documents is the St. Albert Residential School (Youville, 1873-1948), the last Alberta school in operations was Blue Quills with closed its doors in 1990. This does not include the records documenting day schools, industrial schools and missions that operated for over a century across the province. There were also other schools not recognized in the IRSSA. The predominant set of records documents the daily activities of residential school operations. Topics include quarterly returns, building maintenance, livestock, salaries, and general admission. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) acquired digital copies of these documents as part of their assignment to create “as complete as possible” resource for the history of the residential school system in Canada. Although there are some documents from religious sources, the main source of textual records is from federal government offices and repositories. This reflects the government’s intimate role in supervising the operations of these schools. Sources include the School Files records from the Red and Black Series at Library and Archives Canada and the record sets from Indian and Northern Affairs offices.
The records begin in the 1880s when the first residential schools in Alberta were established and they continue into the modern era. The records can be accessed through different methods: by location, name of school, by child attendee. As records of school operations, these records necessarily document the colonial perspective of residential school experience. It is only one component of the residential school history. Children taken to residential school by design lost their oral cultures and languages. A more complete understanding of the residential school story must include oral histories. This is the testimony of the residential school survivors. The site offers over 600 survivor testimonies the TRC collected during its public hearings and events in Alberta. When read from the perspective of survivors, the textual records acquire an entirely new and profound meaning. It is this relationship between the historical and the contemporary records that encourages us to reflect on the residential school legacy and the meaning of reconciliation.