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Northern Cemeteries and Graves

A Guide to Fort Providence, NWT


The Sacred Heart Mission School Cemetery - Fort Providence, NWT

by Murray Lundberg


The Cemetery at

    There are no individual grave markers at this site overlooking the Mackenzie River, only a memorial that marks the approximate location of some 300 people, mostly children. A CBC report states that: "The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Missing Children Project says up to 222 students died at residential schools in the N.W.T., but more than that are buried at Fort Providence, N.W.T., alone."

    I visited the site in late August 2011 while en route from Sambaa Deh Falls Park to Yellowknife and didn't do as thorough an investigation of it as I now wish I had, but plan to return for a complete documentation.

    The residence for the Sacred Heart Mission School was called the Fort Providence Boarding Home, and it was primarily residents of that home who were bured here. Burials at this site took place from 1868 until 1929, when a new cemetery site was created (I have not yet visited it). Catholic missionaries (members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate) first arrived in Fort Providence in 1858, a permanent mission was established in 1862 (1), and the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) opened the residential school in 1867. The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre explains that the school opened with 8 students, and:

"In 1871 the Grey Nuns were caring for twenty-six children, twelve of whom were orphans. During its first twenty-five years of operation the Fort Providence mission cared for and educated 268 children from throughout the Mackenzie valley and from as far south as Fort McMurray.
Both government and missionary sources suggest that the prevailing attitude was that Aboriginal people must remain reliant on hunting and trapping. Too much education could be harmful to a student's reintegration into Aboriginal society. Early mission schools existed to care for the needy and through this work spread the Gospel according to the Roman Catholic or Anglican religions.
While education of Aboriginal children was a federal government responsibility - often part of treaty obligations - attendance prior to the early 1920s wasn't mandatory. The government had little to do with northern education - other than providing small per student grants to the churches - allowing the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches to exercise almost total control over the northern education system.
"

    A few of those buried at this site died as a result of the great Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1920; some estimates say that as many as 100 million people died, including 30-50,000 Canadians. The exact location of the cemetery remains undetermined, as the fence around it was removed in the spring or summer of 1948, and the area was then ploughed and used by the Mission to grow potatoes. Prior to that use, the remains of 8 missionaries were removed and re-interred at the new cemetery.

    The history inscribed on the memorial continues: "Today this passive area is an open field designated for community use. It has not been developed for residential or commercial purpose due to its historical and sacred significance to the community. The names engraved on this monument are those of individuals whose final resting place is at this site. The majority are young children and orphans from up and down the Mackenzie Valley, who were at the residential school. There are also many adults and children from the settlement of Fort Providence and the Fort Providence area. It should be noted that the church records obtained from the Mackenzie diocese were difficult to read or did not contain complete information. It can be assumed that when these early records were being documented, the missionaries were not able to fully gather and record complete information as it may not have been available due to the circumstances at that time."

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada stated that: "It is difficult to place an exact figure on the number of residential schools to which Aboriginal people have been sent in Canada." However, "for purposes of providing compensation to former students the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement has identified 139 residential schools." Of those, 15 are in the Northwest Territories, 6 are in the Yukon Territory, and 1 is in northern British Columbia.






This site is located in the centre of the map. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window.





This memorial celebrating the Centennial of the 1858 arrival the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Fort Providence stands on the southwestern side of the property, overlooking the Mackenzie River.





This stone-lined path leads from the access road and Oblates memorial to the main cemetery memorial.






























































































The names below are from the side of the memorial facing the Mackenzie River - they are the people buried here from Sept 12, 1909 until October 29, 1929. I didn't get photos of the names on the other side, which are those of people buried here between 1868 and 1910.

Summary of deaths:
1910: 12
1911: 14
1912: 13
1913: 8
1914: 6
1915: 1
1916: 5
1917: 3
1918: 5
1919: 11

1920: 11
1921: 2
1922: 2
1923: 1
1924: 12
1925: 5
1926: 2
1927: 10
1928: 13
1929: 10

This Memorial Is Dedicated To The Memory Of The Dene and Metis Decedants Of The Fort Providence Area And Also To The Orphans And Children Of The Mackenzie River Valley That Attended The Sacred Heart Residential School Who Are Buried At This Approximate Site In These Mission Fields

(Transcription in progress)

Name     -     Died/Buried     -     Age

Eloisa Mackiver (Liza McIver) - Sept 12, 1909 - Unknown
Joseph Thom - Sept 12, 1909 - Unknown
Charles Laporte - Oct 16, 1909 - Unknown
Henri Menicoche - Oct 16, 1909 - 60 Yrs.
Celine Main-Brulee - Jan 17, 1910 - Unknown
Suzanne De-Capot-Blanc - Jan 24, 1910 - Unknown
Madeleine Menamon - Jan 24, 1910 - Unknown
Clara Elizabeth Chitchitig - Feb 1, 1910 - 30 Yrs.
        (From Fort Good Hope)
John Kirby (From Ft Simpson) - Feb 23, 1910 - 20 Yrs.
Catherine Ritte (From Ft Good Hope) - May 11, 1910 - 12 Yrs.
Laura Qutchil - (From Arctic Red River) - May 12, 1910 - Unknown
Aleina Landry - Sept 26, 1910 - 12 Yrs.
Marie Etseezinemon - Oct 8, 1910 - Unknown
Marie Etetechle - Oct 20, 1910 - Unknown
Margaret Fletti (From Ft Norman) - Oct 26, 1910 - 5 Yrs.
Marie Le-Thi-Betra (From Trout Lake) - Oct 27, 1910 - 70 Yrs.
Marie Thibault (From Ft Vermilion)- Jan 7, 1911 - 30 Yrs.
Johnny Constant - Jan 16, 1911 - 7 Yrs.
Alexander Lanoix - Jan 16, 1911 - 90 Yrs.
David Villenueve - Jan 28, 1911 - 60 Yrs.
Andrew Laviolette - Feb 4, 1911 - 40 Yrs.
Costa Azo - Feb 13, 1911 - 12 Yrs.
Bruno Dhi - Feb 20, 1911 - 9 Yrs.
Angele Landry - Mar 14, 1911 - 70 Yrs.
Antoine Laviolette - Apr 6, 1911 - 65 Yrs.
Hortense Naro - Apr 24, 1911 - Unknown
Marguerite Sisenetchinch - May 24, 1911 - 50 Yrs.
        (From Arctic Red River)
Jimmy Brule - July 21, 1911 - 1 Yr.
Emily Otalla - Aug 28, 1911 - 12 Yrs.
Adelaide Bettotakadaa - Sep 15, 1911 - 87 Yrs.
        (From Ft Good Hope)
Harriet Landry - Jan 7, 1912 - 7 Yrs.
Marie Dhin - Jan 27, 1912 - 5 Yrs.
George Sabourin - Feb 10, 1912 - 10 Days
Angele Bonnetrouge - Mar 16, 1912 - 55 Yrs.
Barnaby Voevoet (From Arctic Red River) [no date or age]
Theodora Besace (From Ft Simpson) - Aug 13, 1912 - 7 Yrs.
Marina Ndadetche (From Arctic Red River) - Sep 17, 1912 - 11 Yrs.
Agnes Tagutatchin - Oct 19, 1912 - 11 Yrs.
Julie Sambazo - Nov 8, 1912 - 9 Yrs.
Victor Eboda - Dec 20, 1912 - 7 Yrs.
Julius Voevoet (From Arctic Red River) - Nov 19, 1912 - Unknown
Sophie Eotata - Nov 25, 1912 - 10 Yrs.
Noella Betsizcin (From Arctic Red River) - Dec 26, 1912 - Unknown
Julie Kitse - Jan 7, 1913 - 6 Yrs.
Julie Etssonte - Jan 18, 1913 - 22 Yrs.
Pierre Menomon - Feb 3, 1913 - 50 Yrs.
Agnes Sessitcha - Mar 19, 1913 - 8 Yrs.
Jean Marie Lefoin - July 7, 1913 - 80 Yrs.
Alexie Matsule - July 14, 1913 - 8 Yrs.
William Haha - July 28, 1913 - 14 Yrs.
Therese Nata - Nov 10, 1913 - 13 Yrs.
Alex Dadedi - Feb 26, 1914 - 9 Yrs.
Alphonse (Unknown) - Sept 15, 1914 - 22 Yrs.
Marianna Begon - Sept 23, 1914 - 17 Yrs.
Louis Joseph Canadien - Oct 31, 1914 - 8 Yrs.
Johnny Mozis - Oct 6, 1914 - 53 Yrs.
Isadore Lefoin - Dec 28, 1914 - 10 Yrs.
Marie Tignatchi - May 24, 1915 - 9 Yrs.
Adele Lutchele - Mar 30, 1916 - Unknown
Theresa Nadadetche - June 22, 1916 - 11 Yrs.
David Unkatra - June 22, 1916 - Unknown
Celine Unkatra - June 22, 1916 - 9 Yrs.
Augustin Bina - June 24, 1916 - 11 Yrs.
Julie Landry - Jan 7, 1917 - Unknown
Alphonse Vileetachra - Jan 11, 1917 - 10 Yrs.
Lazare Edgileto - Jan 26, 1917 - 11 Yrs.
Pierre Andrew (From Fort Norman) - Mar 9, 1918 - Unknown
Catherine Bouvier-Lamoureux - June 1918 - 82 Yrs.
        (Nee Beaulieu)
Emil Bavard (From Ft Norman) - July 14, 1918 - 11 Yrs.
Pierre Sabourin - Aug 13, 1918 - 60 Yrs.
George Bouvier - 1918 - 2 Yrs.
Simon Menniron - Aug 30, 1919 - 5 Yrs.
Johnny Sambele - Sept 20, 1919 - 18 Yrs.
Alfred Daniel Bouvier - Nov 13, 1919 - 8 Mos.
Joseph Sabourin - Nov 17, 1919 - 8 Mos.
Samuel Kadza - Nov 24, 1919 - 8 Yrs.