Amongst God's Own
The Enduring Legacy of St. Mary's Mission
A book by Terry Glavin & former students of St. Mary's.
This is a journey into the world of First Nations' residential schools. The story of St. Mary's Mission (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) on the Fraser River is an insightful, and readable story about the integral relationships that shaped its history. One of Canada's foremost non-fiction writers, Glavin has woven a highly charged narrative around the words of former students and archival photographs to produce a veracious and timeless book.
This book was funded through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation & commissioned by Mission Indian Friendship Centre. There is a set of curricula for BC Social Studies 10, BC Social Studies 11 & BC First Nations Studies 12, based on the BC Educational Curriculum Criteria for curriculum development.
For Schools, Organizations, Museums and Religious Affiliations, please order directly from publisher.
"It can be said the author has been successful in setting
the polemic aside to enhance society’s understanding of a painful past, and to
ensure historical accuracy. . . The reader comes away with a feeling of “so
that’s what it was really like ...” - Joan Taillon, Raven's Eye, July 2002
"Award-winning B.C. journalist, historian and former
Catholic Terry Glavin, author of The Last Great Sea and This Ragged Place, is
probably best known for his writing on aboriginals. A worthy addition is this
portrait of St. Mary’s Residential School, established near Mission by the
Oblate order. The book, based on interviews with former St. Mary’s students, and
featuring dozens of vintage photos, was extolled by The Report as “an astounding
portrait of overlooked generations of Canadian Indians." - David F.
Dawes, Canadian Christianity.com
"The great thing about this book is that the personal narratives are varied and offer a balance that is rarely shown. Of course, many abuses did occur and that is a large part of why such books are written—to help in the healing process . . . Recommended for secondary and public libraries." - Marilyn Aldworth, District Librarian, SD 44, Reviewed in The Bookmark Summer 2004
On a sweeping expanse of green grass overlooking the Fraser River on a warm late-summer afternoon, Cyril Pierre, a 53-year-old fisherman and a carpenter, pointed out the places he remembered from his childhood.
More than 140 years after Leon Fouquet arrived on the beach below, there is nothing left of the holy city the Oblates first built.
Even the remnants of St. Mary’s Indian Residential School are gone. There is only a covered picnic area, the stone foundations of long-gone buildings, and a cemetery.
On a hill overlooking the field, there is the reconstructed Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, replicated from one of the mission’s most venerable early structures.
Pierre pointed to an overgrown rock wall. This is where the boy’s dormitory was, he said. Over there, that was where the orchard was. That’s where the girls lived. There was a classroom here. This is where the gymnasium used to be.
There are people who come here now, Pierre said, and they don’t know anything about what was here once, but they leave because they feel something wrong. They can hear babies crying.
“That’s how strong it is,” Pierre said. “It’s the hurt that’s still in this place, and I know because my heart was broken here.”
Cyril Pierre turned and looked downriver, towards the distant peak of a mountain he could see from the third floor of the boy’s dormitory when he was a boy.
He would look out the window and hope for a glimpse of the mountain, knowing that just beyond it, on an island in the Fraser, was his home.
“My heart was broken here,” he repeated. “But I’m a survivor.”
What Cyril Pierre survived during his years at St. Mary’s, between 1955 and 1967, is something that is widely considered to be one of the most shameful chapters in Canada’s history—the internment of succeeding generations of aboriginal children in residential schools that were intended to serve the purposes of re-education camps.
As B.C. Indian Commissioner I. W. Powell put it, “the barbarism can only be cured by education.” In its 1887 report, the federal Indian superintendent-general’s office described the purpose of the schools as “the emancipation of the Indian from his inherent superstition and gross ignorance.”
The early architect of Canada’s Indian residential school strategy, Nicholas Flood Davin, was equally blunt.
The whole point was “to take away the simple Indian mythology.”
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