- Digitized Records
- Guide to material on the website
- Histories and Samples of Documents from the Archives collection
- IRS in General and since 1990’s
- Brandon School
- Portage School
- Norway House School
From Canadian Confederation, it was the policy of the government of Canada to provide education to a portion of Aboriginal peoples through a system of church-run residential schools (IRS). The schools were part of the government’s goal to assimilate Aboriginal people into Canadian society. The Methodist and Presbyterian churches and, after 1925, the United Church of Canada, explicitly supported the goals of assimilation and Christianization. By 1969, the United Church’s direct involved ended as the federal government took over the management of all residential schools.
The residential school system brought harm and cultural dislocation to children by removing them from their families and communities and adversely affected First Nations peoples significantly.
It is estimated that 100,000 children attended the residential schools, which accounts for about 20 per cent of the potential eligible status Indian children over time. However, in certain time periods, and in jurisdictions such as the north and the Prairies, as many as 80% of the children in the community were in a remote school. When survivors began to recount their experiences of cultural, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, the General Council of the United Church offered an apology specifically regarding the schools in 1998, as a companion to the 1986 apology made in acknowledgement of the church’s colonial and ethnocentric actions and theologies.
The story of the Residential Schools is complex. It spans nearly 100 years and involved Aboriginal people of diverse cultures and geographies. Many good people were involved with the schools; sometimes their actions were well meaning but guided by mistaken cultural, social, political, theological and scientific understandings. Sometimes their actions were illegal and immoral.
The Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario established a Task Force on Residential Schools in 1990, one of the first formal acknowledgements that the United Church had a responsibility to listen, learn and act on the legacy of its involvement. The records of this Task Force are held in this Archives.
Since 2003, the United Church has worked with other denominations and Survivor groups to promote a national truth-telling and healing process. In 2009, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was launched as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. In fulfillment of this agreement, the United Church has given a copy of all its records related to IRS to the TRC. In turn, these records were sent by the TRC to the University of Manitoba National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Records in the United Church Winnipeg Archives relate to 13 residential schools/residences, from Kenora, Ontario to Vancouver Island, although the majority of the records are for four schools/residences operated by the United Church after 1925: Brandon, Portage, Norway House and Teulon.
The digitization of the IRS related records has enabled this project to make a sampling of the documents and all of the photographs from this Archives accessible through the website. The IRS documents, beyond those on the site, are available to researchers (except where restrictions by law apply) by contacting the Keeper of the Archives. In using the materials it is important to remember that only the documents directly related to residential schools were digitized and submitted to the TRC. There are many other records pertaining to other aspects of mission work and governance with and by Aboriginal people in the United Church.
A guide to what is on the website
Histories and Related Documents
The language and views expressed in these historic documents are not censored. They are not reflective of the Church today. For information on current United Church of Canada right relations work – including apologies to survivors of Residential Schools visit
All of the photographs related to Indian Residential Schools, as well as sampling of other photographs related to work with Aboriginal people, are available on the site. By visiting the Photographs Directory page, you can click on the IRS individual related Fonds and see the photos in galleries by photographer/collector. You can also search for photos using the search box located in the upper right column on this page.
Contact the Archives regarding requests for copies or use of these images. If you can add to, or correct, the information about any of the images on the site please contact the Archives.