The Touchwood Hills area of south-central Saskatchewan is home to the Gordon Reserve, which was established under the terms of Treaty 4 signed in 1874. It lies about 125 km north of Regina and 10 km south of the Town of Punnichy. Upon the survey of the new reserve and its subsequent expansion in 1883, Chief George Gordon and many of his Cree and Salteaux band members moved to settlements within its boundaries.
Since 1859, The Church Missionary Society (CMS) had operated a small mission day school in the Touchwood Hills but it was poorly situated for Chief Gordon’s people living on the new reserve. Consequently, the mission and day school were relocated in 1876 to Crown Land on the western edge of the reserve. Here, it continued to be operated by the CMS until 1886, when all mission activities and property were turned over to the newly created Diocese of Qu’Appelle. Two years later, with federal funding, the school building was enlarged to accommodate boarders for the first time.
In the decades to follow, Gordon’s School was rebuilt, expanded, destroyed by fire twice, and rebuilt again. When most of the Anglican residential schools came under the control of the Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada (MSCC) in 1923, the Diocese of Qu’Appelle retained control of Gordon’s. However, in 1946 this transfer did occur, during a time of rising costs, deficits and staff shortages. Since 1888, Ottawa has paid for all capital improvements to the residential school.
Apart from the local children from Gordon’s Reserve, students have been drawn from a wide area in Saskatchewan, often being the overflow from other residential schools. The year 1965 was typical of the “Baby Boom” generation, with children coming from widely scattered points such as Churchill and Split Lake, MB in the east, Carlyle and Broadview in the south, and Battleford and Pelican Narrows in the north. Of these, 90% were Cree, 8% Salteaux and 1% each were Assiniboine and Chipewyan.
On April 1st, 1969 the government assumed complete administrative control over Gordon’s School and all remaining Anglican support staff were transferred to federal payroll. As a result of building additions made in recent years, and the difficulty in placing residential students in elementary day schools (native or municipal), Gordon’s continued to serve as a residential school until 1996, when it was finally closed by Ottawa and torn down.
- 1886 Diocese of Qu’Appelle (formed in 1884) takes over Gordon’s Day School from CMS.
- 1888 School building enlarged to provide dormitory space for first residential students. Indian Agent reports 15 boarders and 3 day students at Gordon’s Boarding School in 1889.
- 1895 New two-storey stone building constructed and named Gordon’s Indian School, with capacity for 30 students. Farming activity begins in earnest at the school.
- 1911 Amended operational agreement between Diocese and Ottawa, whereby federal government increases annual per capita grant from $72 to $100 and agrees to pay for future capital improvements.
- 1915 Government enlarges school and raises authorized pupilage to 45.
- ca. 1921 School suffers major fire.
- 1922 Replacement school, constructed of brick, opens with capacity for 100 students. Location is 5 km south of Punnichy, where present day band offices and George Gordon Education Centre are situated.
- 1929 School building destroyed by fire Feb. 1st. Modern replacement building is quickly approved and construction commences on foundation of old school.
- 1930 New Gordon’s Indian Residential School opens in September, with increased pupilage of 120.
- 1945-1953 School is closed for extended periods due to chronic need for mechanical repairs and insufficient water from existing wells.
- 1946 Diocese of Qu’Appelle transfers operation of school to Indian School Administration of MSCC.
- 1950s-1960s Punnichy High School sporadically accepts Gordon’s graduates (grade 8) as space permits but the Town’s school board refuses to admit any Gordon’s children to its elementary school, citing policy that only Punnichy children can attend. Situation forces Gordon’s School to increase enrolment for residential and day students, hire more staff and expand facilities.
- 1956 New classroom block and teachers’ residence is constructed separate from main building. Dormitory capacity is raised to 150
- 1965 Classroom block and gymnasium added, raising enrolment is 200, with 170 in residence and 30 being day students.
- 1969 Apr. 1 Government takes over school, which is renamed Gordon’s Student Residence.
- 1996 Government closes student hostel at Gordon’s and main building is demolished.
Compiled by General Synod Archives, September 23, 2008.