Former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School National Historic Site of Canada
Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia
Shubenacadie Indian Residential School before 1967
(© Sisters of Charity, Halifax | Soeurs de la Charité, Halifax / Congregational Archives | Archives de la Congrégation / #1695A)
Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1928 to 1929
1930 to 1967
1986 to 1986
Event, Person, Organization:
Roland Guerney Orr
Rhodes Curry Ltd.
Former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School
St. Anne's Convent
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia
Many Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and other Indigenous children were forced to attend the only residential school in the Maritimes. Created by the Canadian government and run by the Catholic Church, it was part of a national, colonial policy meant to assimilate students by prohibiting their cultures and languages. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission described this policy as cultural genocide. Many Shubenacadie survivors and descendants call it genocide. The abuses, malnutrition, harsh punishment, and child labour endured at this school have impacted generations. This place is witness to the children who died here, the resilience of survivors and descendants, and those who fight for restitution and justice.
Description of Historic Place
Warning: Reading about Residential Schools might be triggering or distressing. A National Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former Residential School students and their families. Please call the Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 if you or someone you know is triggered while reading the content on this website.
The Former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School National Historic Site of Canada is located in the Sipekni’katik district of Mi’kma’ki, near the village of Shubenacadie in Nova Scotia. There are no standing structures associated with the school, which was built in 1928-29 and was open from 1930 to 1967. Now demolished, it was an imposing three-storey red brick building designed in a Classical Moderne style that followed a symmetrical E-shaped plan with dormitories on each side and a back wing with a chapel. It stood on a large property that featured barns and other farm buildings, staff residences, cultivated fields, and pastures.
After 1967, the site was abandoned and remained unused for nearly 20 years. In 1986, a fire destroyed the dilapidated school building and, two years later, a factory was built where the structure once stood. The formal recognition refers to the factory’s property lines, although the former school site extends beyond these boundaries.
The former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2020. It is recognized because:
• although the school building is no longer standing, the site of the former school is a place of remembrance and healing for some survivors and their descendants, who wish to preserve the Indian Residential School history in the Maritimes. Others, for whom the building and site holds neither healing nor memorial status, believe that the building and site remain a testament and record for the experiences of the children who were there as well as for the legacies of those experiences throughout Mi’kma’ki;
• operated from 1930 to 1967, it was the only Indian Residential School in the Maritimes. It was first managed by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax and later the Missionary Oblates of Marie Immaculate, and was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of Halifax and functioned within the residential school system whereby the federal government and churches worked together to assimilate Indigenous children as part of a broad set of efforts to destroy Indigenous cultures and identities and suppress Indigenous histories;
• at this school, Mi’kmaw and Wolastoq’kew children from the Maritimes and Quebec (and possibly children from other Indigenous communities) were subjected to harsh discipline; malnutrition and starvation; poor healthcare; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; medical experimentation; neglect; the deliberate suppression of their cultures and languages; and loss of life. From the earliest days of the school, students, their families, and community leaders voiced objections, and protested everything from forced attendance to poor conditions, mistreatment, and the inadequate quality of schooling. Children fought against the system by refusing to let go of their languages and identities. Some children ran away from the schools in an effort to return home.
The heritage value of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School lies in its powerful connections with past events, and the lived experiences and memories of Survivors. As a site of remembrance, it is a powerful reminder of the pain and suffering endured at the school and evokes traumatic experiences. The site serves as a stark reminder of the Indian Residential School history in the Maritimes and ensures that the history of the Residential School System is known. It is significant because of its association with the Residential School System which has had complex and enduring effects on generations of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, parents, and communities. This site is a witness to the children who died there, the resilience of Survivors and descendants, and those who fought for restitution and justice.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes December 2019
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include: its location outside the village of Shubenacadie, at the top of a small hill on Indian School Road the presence of potential grave sites viewscapes from the site to the surrounding rolling hills, agricultural lands, the Shubenacadie River, and the former staff houses along Indian School Road continued access and use of the site by Survivors, descendants, and Indigenous communities for ceremony as well as commemorative, spiritual, and educational purposes.