British Columbia Premier John Horgan (centre, blue jacket) is drummed into the Lower Post Residential School by Kaska drummers in Lower Post, B.C. on Orange Shirt Day in a 2019 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manu Keggenhoff MANDATORY CREDIT

British Columbia Premier John Horgan (centre, blue jacket) is drummed into the Lower Post Residential School by Kaska drummers in Lower Post, B.C. on Orange Shirt Day in a 2019 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manu Keggenhoff MANDATORY CREDIT

Former residential school in Lower Post, B.C., slated for demolition: premier

After 45 years of lobbying the federal and B.C. governments, the building is slated for demolition in the spring

A building where locals pick up their mail, look for work and seek government help is a place of pain and fear for those who remember it as a residential school.

Some of the 175 or so residents in the Indigenous village of Lower Post near the B.C.-Yukon boundary avoid stepping inside, while others have described feelings of lingering tension at having to enter the building.

The former Lower Post residential school operated from 1951 to 1975 and now serves as a post office, employment centre and band office for the Daylu Dena Council.

After 45 years of lobbying the federal and B.C. governments, the building is slated for demolition in the spring, says Premier John Horgan, who went on a tour of the site in October 2019.

Horgan said being inside the building and witnessing the fear of some people who were afraid to enter had a profound effect on him. He spoke about his visit to Lower Post during last fall’s election campaign, saying he saw a room where students were sexually abused.

“I went into the basement with an elder,” said Horgan in a year-end interview. “There were two elders there — one couldn’t come down the stairs because the memories were too harsh.”

Horgan said he contacted the federal government after his trip to the community about the “absolutely inappropriate” use of the former residential school building as an administration office for the Daylu Dena Council.

The premier said there is now an agreement between the two governments that the building will be torn down and a new administration office built for the people in the region.

“I’m really pleased we’re going to be doing that,” Horgan said.

The federal government did not respond to a request for comment.

Residential school survivor Melvin Tibbet, 66, said he took Horgan on a tour of the building and replacing it will help the community.

“We suffered enough in that building,” he said in a recent interview.

“It’s going to make everybody feel a lot better when we get a new building in this community.”

Deputy Chief Harlan Schilling of the Daylu Dena Council said he’s heard the federal and B.C. government will announce plans early this year to tear down the building, but he won’t believe it until the wrecking crew arrives and he’s seen replacement blueprints.

“I remember hearing stories as a young boy that the government’s going to finally help us tear this building down,” he said. “It just turned into false hopes.”

Schilling, 33, a former Canadian Forces combat engineer, said at one point there were more than 600 students at the school from B.C.’s north, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

“There are a lot people who refused to go inside that building, some of them couldn’t even look at it,” Schilling said. “It was not a happy place. It was a hard place to work out of.”

Efforts by former chiefs and councils to get a new building were rejected over the decades by the federal government, he said. Burst pipes in October may have been its final reckoning as the band moved out of the building into trailers that now serve as administration offices, he said.

Schilling said the original residential school building, which included a dormitory, was about four times larger than the administration building that remains in Lower Post. He said a fire destroyed part of the old school.

He said he wants to see the day when elders in Lower Post who went to the school can walk into a new building to get their mail or check for work.

“It was very devastating for me to see the hurt they hold inside,” Schilling said.

“I’m really hoping this will be a success story, not just for a First Nation but for a country.”

— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Indigenousresidential schools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Veteran Henry Kriwokon has his photo taken by the Western as he celebrates his 99th birthday with friends at the Cellar in Downtown Penticton. (Brennan Phillips - Penticton Western News)
Turning 101, Penticton veteran looks back on life

Henry Kriwokon was one of the soldiers in the famous ‘Wait for me, Daddy’ photo

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

A Dodge Ram pickup similar to this one was involved in a hit-and-run in Lake Country on Saturday, Jan. 16. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Stolen truck involved in Okanagan hit-and-run

Incident happened on Highway 97 in Lake Country just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Kelowna Fire Department. (FILE)
Early morning downtown Kelowna dumpster fire deemed suspicious

RCMP and the Kelowna Fire Department will conduct investigations into the cause of the blaze

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Most Read