UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Saint Mary's Mission (Mission City, British Columbia) 1861 to 1900 Clark, Melanie Ann Jones


This thesis examines the pre-1900 relationship between the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a French order of Roman Catholic priests, and the Sto:lo of the Fraser Valley. It considers the effects of the strict and inflexible Oblate system on the Sto:lo. Primary sources for this study were found at the Oblate Archives, the Archives of the Sisters of St. Ann, and from various oral testimonies. Under a regime called the "Durieu System", the Oblates encouraged the creation of segregated, self-sufficient agricultural villages on Sto:lo reserves. Ecclesiastically appointed watchmen recorded the names of transgressors against the Oblate "norms" of behaviour. No deviation was tolerated under this regime of surveillance and segregation. The thesis focuses on the Sto:lo children sent to the residential school at St. Mary's Mission; Sister Mary Lumena's diaries and the reminisces of a Metis student, Cornelius Kelleher, were the main sources of information. There were two schools on the site; the boys' under Oblate control, the girls' under the supervision of the Sisters of St.Ann. The schools were residential because the Oblates sought to isolate the children from Sto:lo elders who adhered to the "old ways". At school, children spoke only English and learned by rote-recitation. Sto:lo cosmology was replaced with the Roman Catholic religion. To prevent "immorality", the Oblates segregated the pupils from outsiders and the opposite sex; even their parent's visits were supervised. The school was self-sufficient so as to keep contact with the outside world at a minimum. The Oblates held a utopian vision of a docile, pious, capable, Roman Catholic peasantry. They hoped former pupils would return to their village and educate others or settle in agricultural villages under Oblate control. However, as this study shows, most pupils were orphans or Metis and did not have much influence in their village. This thesis suggests that the small numbers who attended St. Mary's found the transition between the Oblate and Sto:lo worlds difficult to make. Present-day informants described their reactions (which ranged from negative to ambivalent) to the residential school system and the effects of cultural confusion on their lives.

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