IRS Photo Galleries

An Archival Look at Indian Residential Schools

Through our image digitization and protection project, we have made available to the public over 3,000  images from the Indian Residential Schools that operated within the missions of northern Alberta, over the region we today call the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan.

A brief history of this project

Northwestern Alberta has had a Catholic presence, under the authority of a bishop, since 1860, as part of the Apostolic Vicariate of St. Boniface. The territory was reconfigured three more times, finally being erected as the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan in 1967. The area’s first Indian Residential School (IRS) was at the St. Bernard Mission in Grouard and operated from 1866-1961. There were five other IRS at Catholic missions in this part of Alberta.

The Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan holds nearly 30,000 photographic images of the peoples and places in this part of Alberta, dating back to the late 1800’s. In 2019-20, about 6,000 of these images were digitized with the objective of making historical materials in the archives more widely available.

Given its role in the IRS system, and as a party to the IRS Settlement Agreement, the Archdiocese participated at the seven national events hosted by Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2010-2014. The images from the six missions that were home to residential schools were well-received at these events and became the first images chosen for the image digitization and protection project of our Archives.

On this website, you will find a selection of images from the following Indian Residential Schools and the Catholic missions. The images are numbered and have a brief description in English and French. You are encouraged to contact the Archivist at the Chancery in Grande Prairie if you have comments about and/or if you would like to obtain a copy of any of the images.

(1) Assumption (now Chateh), Our Lady of Assumption Mission (1928) and IRS (1951-1973)

(2) Desmarais-Wabasca, St. Martin Mission (1897) and IRS (1901-1973)

(3) Fort Vermilion, St. Henry Mission (1876) and IRS (1900-1968)

(4) Grouard, St. Bernard Mission (1864) and IRS (1886-1961)

(5) Joussard, St. Bruno Mission (1912) and IRS (1913-1969)

(6) Sturgeon Lake, St. Francis Xavier Mission (1896) and IRS (1907-1961)

The project has been made possible in part by the Documentary Heritage Communities Program offered by Library and Archives Canada/Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au Programme de contribution pour les collectivités du patrimoine documentaire offert par Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.