A History of the Rice Lake Indians by Mary Jane Muskratte Simpson

The Alderville Residential School

A further letter from the Department summarizes the history of the Alderville Residential School:

On the 26th of May, 1847, the Rev. Dr. Egerton Ryerson made a report in which he recommended the establishment of manual training or industrial schools as the best mode of promoting the moral, social and intellectual improvement of the Indians.

In July of the same year, the Visiting Indian Superintendents having met to confer on various matters connected with the Indians under their care, requested the erection of a Manual Labour School at Alderville on the Alnwick Reserve.

The Superintendent further suggested that as an acknowledgement of the liberality, courage and perseverance of the Wesleyan Methodist Society, in Christianizing and ameliorating the condition of the Indian Tribes, the proposed school should be placed under their supervision.

For several years the Rev. William Case had been most persevering in his efforts to forward this object. He had for more than ten years the management of a School of this description, first on Grape Island and subsequently to 1838 at Alnwick, where 12 children were educated, clothed and boarded entirely at the cost of the British Wesleyan Conference.

The first practical step towards the formation of a fund for the maintenance of this School seems to have been taken by Lord Metcalf, who discontinued the issue as presents to the Indians of the following Tribes:

Mississaugas of Alnwick; the Mississaugas of Mud and Rice Lakes; Chippewas of Lakes Huron and Simcoe; Chippewas of Saugeen; Mississaugas of Scugog.

It was then promised that the value of the gunpowder so withheld should be applied to promoting education among them.

In 1848 the Alnwick School was completed at a cost of $6,328, and during the next ten years a further sum of $515.77 was expended on it for repairs. It was decided that this Institution should be attended by the children from the Chippewas of Lake Huron and Simcoe, Saugeen and Owen Sound; and the Mississaugas of Alnwick, and those of Rice, Mud and Scugog Lakes; a few children from Garden River were also admitted although they had no funds to contribute to the support of the School.

The management of this School having been entrusted to the Wesleyan Methodist Society, the following arrangement was arrived at:

An agreement was entered into with this society by which the Indian Department agreed to "ensure" the buildings and to pay the Society for the board, clothing and education of each child, a certain sum per annum, averaging $64.00 a head. Although this money was paid by the Department, the funds were contributed by the Indians themselves, the Band benefiting therefrom having consented to set apart one quarter of their annuities for this purpose.

Owing to various obstacles which impeded the success of the experiment, the Alderville school was closed after six or seven years. Indian Commissioner R.T. Pennefather, Fromme Talfourd and Thos. Worthington recommended in their report of 1858 that "to prevent the decay of the building at Alderville it should be occupied by the government for public purposes."

The original school building was used as a school room and Council House up until 1880 when it became so dilapidated as to be no longer fit for use. Wm. Plummer, Superintendent and Indian Commissioner, Toronto, in a report dated September 11th, 1880, described it as follows:

"I have examined it and had it repaired several times, and a builder, who recently examined it, says it is in a dangerous condition. It is a large brick building, and for a long time not more than one fourth of it has been occupied. It is proposed to pull it down and to erect a smaller one suitable for school purposes and Council house, with the old materials."

Mr. D. E. Pickforth's tender for taking down of the old building and the erection of a new one with the materials therefrom for a school house and Council Chamber at the sum of $2,350.00 was accepted April 27th, 1881. The new building was completed and taken off the hands of the Contractor on February 2nd, 1882, and was reported by Mr. Plummer to be "a very fine one and the materials and workmanship throughout cannot be found fault with".

Some of the original Indian names of Alnwick and Rice Lake are long and have strange meanings. Here are a few of the old family names: Og-Ec-Mah-Heg-Wa, Kul-Be-Je-Ze-Qud, meaning "All Day", Obec-Mem-Aun, E-Quad-Ooke. Of course all these names have been changed to English names or altered until they resemble English names such as the Simpson, Howard or Smoke families. At the Rice Lake Reserve one of the oldest and most respected names is that of Paudash, which means "A sail in the distance" or "Away off". The Paudash (Podash) family is descended from Captain T. G. Anderson and his brother Charles Anderson of Rice Lake who both married Indian women.

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