As we get closer to the Vernon Lapidary Club’s Holiday Rock and Gem Market event at the Vernon Museum (December 11 from 10 AM to 3 PM), we wanted to take a critical look at one of our own rock collections.
Nothing Constant, but Change Itself
Changing policies and practices over time have result in some mysteries among the Vernon Museum’s artifact collection. One example is a seemingly innocuous collection of rocks that habour a troubling secret. While no paperwork appears to exist to explain why and when they were added to the museum’s collection, a small note tucked among the rocks suggests they are connected to the St. George’s Residential School in Lytton, BC.
Links to a Dark Past
In 1941, Reverend Charles Hives was appointed principal. The note suggests that it was Hives and a group of students who collected the rocks. An additional piece of paper, yellow with age, identifies them as opal, lead, iron, agate, and jasper, and states that they were gathered from places as far off as Idaho, Texas, and Oregon. It is not known what brought Hives and the children to the United States, but records from Library and Archives Canada suggest that some students did learn to make jewelry from jasper while attending St. George’s Residential School.
The residential school operated from 1901 to 1979. It was originally a boys-only institute, but after the All Hallows School for Girls in Yale closed in 1920, the girls were transferred to St. George’s. Throughout the years, the school experienced problems with sanitization, fire safety, and overcrowding. In 1926/’27, a flu epidemic led to the death of 13 children.
How Did They Come to Be Here?
The presence of this collection of rocks in the Vernon Museum raises many questions: how did they come to be here? Is it appropriate for us to have them? Are we able to repatriate them to the Lytton First Nation? Despite their humble nature, it is essential that artifacts like these rocks are treated respectfully to honour all who attended residential schools across Canada.
To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!
Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator