There is a significant change on the waterfront in Alert Bay this year. The imposing brick building, St. Michael’s Residential School, which stood next to the U’mista Cultural Centre has been razed, and the site is now an open field. The school had unhappy memories for many in the area. For decades, the Canadian government took First Nations children six years and older from their families to place them in residential schools across the country. St. Michael’s was the school for the Broughtons.
We were told how this separation of families has had a negative impact on the children – a generation that grew up without understanding a family environment and removed from their culture. It was part of an effort by the government to erase tribal cultural values and language, which local First Nations are working to re-instill today in communities like Alert Bay and New Vancouver.
U’mista has a temporary exhibit with pictures and voices from St. Michael’s on display through the end of the year. Visit www.umista.org.