The museum reflects on artefacts
Gwyn Evans – Dec 5 2021 / 04h00 | History: 353626
Photo: Grand Vernon Museum and Archives
Changing policies and practices over time have created some mysteries among the Vernon Museum’s collection of artifacts.
One example is a seemingly harmless collection of rocks that hold a troubling secret. While no record appears to exist as to why and when they were added to the museum’s collection, a small note nestled among the rocks suggests that they are related to St. George’s Residential School in Lytton.
The boarding school operated from 1901 to 1979. It was originally a boys-only institute, but after the Yale All Hallows School for Girls was closed in 1920, the girls were transferred to St. George’s. Over the years, the school has experienced problems with disinfection, fire safety and overcrowding. In 1926-27, an influenza epidemic resulted in the death of 13 children.
In 1941, the Reverend Charles Hives was appointed director.
The note suggests that it was Hives and a group of students who picked up the stones. Another piece of paper, yellowed over time, identifies them as opal, lead, iron, agate and jasper, and states that they were collected from places as far away as the Idaho, Texas and Oregon.
It is not known what brought Hives and the children to the United States, but documents from Library and Archives Canada suggest that some students learned to make jasper jewelry while attending St. George’s Residential School.
The presence of this collection of rocks at the Vernon Museum raises many questions: how did they get here? Is it appropriate for us to have them? Can we repatriate them to Lytton First Nation? Despite their humble nature, it is essential that artifacts like these rocks be treated with respect to honor all who attended residential schools across Canada.
Gwyn Evans is the Research and Communications Coordinator at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives.