Back in early 2019, I sent an email to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
I was looking for any morsel of information that would show that my grandmother, Margret Anderson as I knew her, had in fact gone to Holy Angels residential school in Fort Chipewyan.
When I examined my father for Federal Court in 2013 he stated that his mother had gone to Holy Angels in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.
When grandma was raising my brother and I her surname was Anderson. She had been married three times in her life that I am aware of.
She was first married to a man whom I’ve yet to find out the name of. This man was either Cree or Blackfoot.
This marriage produced my Uncle Norman. Norman died around 1985.
This marriage was over by at least 1944 / 1945
Her second marriage was to Arthur Herman Gill. Arthur was Irish.
This marriage produced my father Richard, as well as Doug, my uncle.
This marriage did not last very long.
Her third marriage was to Andy Anderson.
I don’t believe this marriage produced any children.
After sending in the information, I didn’t hear back from the NCTR and just assumed that maybe the school records at these schools weren’t easily searchable or just couldn’t be located.
Last week I received an email message from the NCTR asking if my mailing address was correct.
On Tuesday September 1st, I received my grandmother’s admission record for Holy Angels Indian Residential School in Fort Chipewyan, AB.
Even though I knew this information was coming to me, it was still shocking to see this information in black and white.
Contained in the record was her father’s name, her mother’s name, and her date of birth.
My paternal great grandfather was Modeste Waniandy.
Modeste as I’ve learnt elsewhere was born in 1884 in Lac St. Anne, Alberta. He was a hard rock miner and he died in 1969 in Uranium City, Saskatchewan.
My paternal great grandmother was Caroline Waniandy nee Courtrelle.
My grandmother was born in 1923.
With a quick check of the Library and Archives I was able to find the 1926 Census for the Prairie region.
In 1926 Modeste and Caroline were living in the settlement of Fort McMurray.
Modeste Waniandy was 31 in 1926
Caroline Waniandy was 24 in 1926.
The census indicates that Modeste and Caroline had 3 children.
George Waniandy was the eldest at 9 at the time of the census in 1926
Marguerite Waniandy was the middle child at 4 in 1926
Johnnie Waniandy was the youngest child at 13 months in 1926.
George Waniandy died in WWII on August 31st 1944
My grandmother was 12 years old when she started school. She was enrolled on Oct 3rd, 1935. She was also going by the name Margaret at this time.
It doesn’t say what grade she was placed into, but from what I’ve been told grades didn’t matter much in the Residential Schools. The kids weren’t going to these schools for an education. The kids were going to these school to get the Indian beat out of them. She was apparently student #867.
Whatever education she received couldn’t have been much as she left school in March of 1938 at 14 years of age.
In 1985, my brother and I had been sent up to Edmonton to spend the summer with our grandmother. I remember watching her write a letter, and she would effortlessly switch back and forth between using her left hand and her right hand.
Year previous, when we lived up on Canadian Forces Base Namao, I begged my grandmother to teach me how to write cursive. I was 8 years old and I could handwrite far better than I could print.
In 1985, I pestered my grandmother to teach me how to switch hands so that I could write with my left hand too.
After much pestering she asked me if I wanted her to beat me like the nuns had beat her to make her stop writing with her left hand.
I didn’t understand what she meant, and she never explained it any further.
But nowadays we all know the hell on Earth that those residential school could be.
Both Richard and Grandma rarely spoke about our extended family.
So, it will be interesting seeing what else I can dig up.
And I know ever less about the maternal side of my family.
All I know about the maternal side of my family is that my mother is Quebecois and was from Hull in Quebec.
I don’t even know the names of my maternal grandparents.