The Kainai (Blood) First Nation is one of four aboriginal groups comprising the Blackfoot Confederacy in Southern Alberta and adjacent Montana. Other members include the North Blackfoot (Siksika) and North Peigan (Piikani) and, across the border, the South Peigan on the Blackfeet Reservation. Following the signing of Treaty 7 in September 1877, reserves were created in Southern Alberta for the three Canadian Blackfoot tribes as well as the Sarcee (Tsuu T’ina) and the Stoney peoples.

The Blood Reserve No. 148 was not established immediately, due to a dispute over its final location, size and boundaries. Soon after the reserve’s formation in 1882, a further surrender of some of its land apparently took place—a transaction challenged by later generations of Kainai. Today, the Blood Reserve remains the largest and most populous of the five reserves in Southern Alberta. It is situated 150 km south of Calgary (below Hwy. 4) and 20 km north of the International Boundary, occupying 1,350 sq. km between the Belly and St. Mary Rivers.

Anglican missions were quickly set up throughout the Treaty 7 area on all reserves except the Stoney (served by the Methodists). In 1880, the first permanent mission and school for the Kainai was established at the Belly Buttes on what was to become the western edge of the Blood Reserve. Funding for this Anglican mission work throughout southern Alberta was provided by the overseas Church Missionary Society (CMS), through its local agency, the Calgary Indian Missions. Roman Catholic missionaries were also active in the area and had a strong influence on the Blood Reserve where competition with Anglican missionaries was intense during the 1880s and 1890s.

The Diocese of Calgary, created in 1888 out of Saskatchewan, had little direct financial involvement with the operation of St. Paul’s Anglican Mission among the Bloods, except for legal responsibility for the residential schools established later and detailed in formal agreements with the government. At the time, the Diocese was swamped with the task of administering to the needs of non-native parishes, following the large influx of European settlers in the west after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. This population rise led to province status for Alberta in 1905.


St. Paul’s Anglican Residential School opened on Big Island in the Belly River in 1889, five years after the establishment of the Catholic St. Joseph’s (Dunbow) Industrial School at High River, 120 km north of the Blood Reserve. The Anglican school was primitive and lacked proper dormitories. It was rebuilt in 1893 as St. Paul’s Home with capacity for 27 pupils in residence. Two years later, a major expansion raised the pupilage to 71. As the school did not have proper facilities for vocational training, some of the older boys were sent to the Anglican run Calgary Industrial School (St. Dunstan’s), which operated 1896-1907. Another rival Catholic school, St. Mary’s (Immaculate Conception) Mission Boarding School, opened in 1911 at Stand Off near the western edge of the reserve.

Students. Photo P7538-661

The Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada (MSCC) took over operation of St. Paul’s and the other three Anglican residential schools in the Diocese in 1920, through its agency the Indian and Eskimo School Commission. By this time, the government was closely involved in the planning and funding of church run residential schools. The 1895 era boarding school on the Blood Reserve had become outdated and a new school, St. Paul’s Indian Residential School, was constructed in 1925 with an authorized pupilage of 140. It was in a new location at the south end of the reserve, 7 km west of Cardston. A large working farm of 1,200 acres adjoined the school. Additional property was acquired at nearby Waterton Lakes National Park for use as a staff retreat and as a summer bible camp for St. Paul’s students and parishioners in the Lethbridge Deanery.

The opening ceremonies at the new St. Paul’s School attracted many former students who had recently formed the school’s “Old Boys Association,“ then the most active among all the Anglican schools. Annual reunions became popular with old school graduates, many of whom had become respected elders within the Kainai community. One of the most celebrated “old boys” was Mike Mountain Horse who enlisted during World War I and was wounded twice during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In 1954, St. Paul’s graduate Evelyn Eagle Speaker, at the age of 19, became the first native woman to be crowned “Calgary Stampede Queen.” She was also the first to be named Princess Wapiti, representing the five Treaty 7 area tribes.

The Gladstone family name was also widely respected by Alberta’s aboriginal peoples. Elder James Basil Gladstone, born in 1887 to mixed parents, was made a status Blood Indian in 1920. He attended both St. Paul’s and the Calgary Industrial School and later became a very successful cattle rancher. His appointment to the Senate in 1958 was the first such post granted to a first nation person in Canada. His six children were also well known graduates of St. Paul’s School. Daughter Nora represented Canadian native peoples at the 1937 Coronation of King George VI in London.

After World War II, the school building was gradually transformed into a hostel as residential students were integrated into Provincial schools in Cardston and Magrath. Some students were also “boarded out” with families in Cardston. Conversely, in the 1960s, St. Paul’s classroom block was temporarily used by many non-native children from Cardston where kindergarten and grade 1 space in the public elementary schools was limited. Throughout its history, most students attending the residential school were Kainai children from the Blood Reserve. In later decades, small numbers of students were also drawn from other Treaty 7 reserves and out of province reserves, especially those from the Carlton Indian Agency in Saskatchewan.

In 1969, the government assumed control of St. Paul’s Student Residence, with many Anglican workers transferring to federal payroll. The residence closed in 1975 and the school buildings and property were soon transferred to the local band for mixed use. Today the Kainai Board of Education has several day schools on the Blood Reserve, offering classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12.


  • 1880 Church Missionary Society opens St. Paul’s Mission and day school near the western edge of the future Blood Reserve. Rev. Samuel Trivett is in charge.
  • 1883 Second government survey sets final boundaries for Blood Reserve No. 148.
  • 1889 St. Paul’s Home opens as the first Anglican boarding school on the Reserve.
  • 1893 School expansion increases pupilage to 27; by 1895, 71 pupils are in residence.
  • 1896 Calgary Industrial School (St. Dunstan’s) opens for older boys from Anglican schools in the Treaty 7 area, especially those from the Sarcee and Blood reserves.
  • 1907 Calgary Industrial School closes due to declining enrolment.
  • 1911 Formal agreement between Ottawa and Diocese of Calgary over admission requirements and standards for St. Paul’s school buildings. Blood Church of England Indian Residential School is official name (used until 1925). Government agrees to pay sustained annual per capita grant. CMS, through its agency the Calgary Indian Missions, continues to pay most of the other capital and operating costs, on behalf of the Diocese. Due to condition of buildings, Ottawa reduces authorized pupilage to 50.
  • 1920 Indian and Eskimo School Commission of MSCC takes over operation of “St. Paul’s” and three other Anglican residential schools in the Treaty 7 area, formerly administered by the Calgary Indian Missions of the CMS.
  • 1923 Authorized residential student enrolment raised to 75. School is outdated and at capacity. Local band offers land for large replacement school at new location on the reserve.
  • 1925 June 22 St. Paul’s Indian Residential School opens at the south end of the Reserve near Cardston. Authorized pupilage is 125. Property includes 1,200 acres set aside for school farm, which provides near self sufficiency in food, through grain harvesting, cultivation of garden vegetables, dairying and poultry raising.
  • 1929 St. Paul’s Church (school chapel) built on school grounds (moved to Cardston in 1958). Top floor (attic) of school building is finished for added dormitory space, increasing capacity to 140 students.
  • 1950s St. Paul’s older residential students gradually integrated into Provincial schools. Since 1952, all teachers are hired by government. By 1959, all high school age children attend municipal school in Cardston.
  • 1965 Education for native children ends in June at St. Paul’s. In September all of St. Paul’s 110 residents are attending Provincial schools—elementary students are bused to Magrath, high school students to Cardston. School is renamed St. Paul’s Student Residence.
  • 1967 Sept. Residential enrolment drops to about 60, less than half the hostel’s capacity, as more native students live at home on the Reserve or in placement homes in Calgary, Drumheller and Vancouver where they attend public high schools. Most boarders are young children who attend elementary school in Magrath.
  • 1969 April 1 Ottawa assumes control of St. Paul’s Student Residence. Staff transfer to government payroll. Anglican chaplaincy service continues.
  • 1975 Hostel closes.
  • 1978 Title to property and former school buildings transferred to local Indian band.
  • 1980s-1990s Kainai Board of Education establishes seven native run day schools, kindergarten to grade 12, including learning centres for special needs children. All incorporate Kainaysinni and lifelong learning into their curricula.

Compiled by General Synod Archives, September 23, 2008.