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A Canadian History Lesson: Rose Prince & Lejac Residential School

Part 3 of the series taking you through a small piece of Canadian history in each province and territory. 

*TW* This article mentions deaths and illnesses of Indigenous peoples in residential schools.

Nearly every Canadian knows the basics of Residential schools and the process of assimilation of the Indigenous population of Canada. However, it's safe to say many people are not aware of Rose Prince's story at Lejac Residential School in British Columbia. 

Lejac Residential school was open from 1922 to 1976 and was operated under the Catholic Church; jointly run by the Oblate Fathers and Sisters of the Child Jesus. The school would bring Indigenous children from several different areas within British Columbia, many of which were of Dakelh descent, as well as from Gitxsan, Wet'suwet'en and Sekani Indigenous groups. 

Rose Prince was one of many children who attended the Residential school during the 50+ years it was open. She arrived at age six, and never left. Rose's life in the Residential school was all but easy. During her time there she developed a curvature on her spine resulting in a large hump on her side following an accident one day. It was because of her accident and the loss of her family that Rose chose to stay at Lejac despite finishing her education there in her early teens. Rose was always known to be a wonderful person, with many considering her a living saint. In 1949 Rose contracted tuberculosis, she was only 34 when she died. 

Rose was buried with many others who had died at Lejac Residential school, directly on the property. 

Two years following her death, the gravesite of these many Indigenous peoples and children was being moved. Many of the coffins were opened by the workers, where they realized that unlike everyone else, Rose looked no different than the day she died. Her body had been miraculously preserved from corruption. 

To Catholics, this discovery was extremely important. Incorruption of bodies following death is a sign of sanctity and reflects the victory of Christ over death. Rose was a miracle. 

However, this is not where her miraculousness ended. In the 1990s, Rose Prince healed Nick Loza. Loza was suffering from an inoperable herniated disk, and was in extreme pain 24/7. His priest, Father Goulet mixed earth from Rose's grave with holy water and gave it to Loza, applying it on the affected area. This made his pain subside long enough to sleep through the night for the first time in months. This began the pilgrimage of Rose Prince. 

Each summer, a pilgrimage happens. Every year, hundreds of people gather at Rose's grave in hopes of being cured of their illnesses from the earth she resides in. In 2004, there were over 1,200 people in attendance. Many believe Rose was a saint both in life and death, and she is using her sainthood to cure those who are suffering.

Each of those who have been cured by Rose, must attend the pilgrimage every year. Loza himself found that when he missed the pilgrimage once his pain began to return. 

Rose's body has not been seen since 1951, but many believe she is still uncorrupted even more than 70 years later. Both people of Catholic faith, and Indigenous peoples practicing spirituality gather together around Rose and practice their faith. 

To Indigenous peoples and to many others, Rose has always been a saint. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, it takes longer to recognize sainthood. The Vatican has yet to recognize Rose's sainthood, but they are in the process of determining whether or not she is a saint in her own right. 

Lejac Residential School was torn down in 1976. Today, all that remains is the cemetery, and the memorial to Rose Prince. 

Rose was a young Indigenous child ripped from her family and sent to a Residential school northern British Columbia. She was a bright young girl, always making the best of the worst. She died too young. Rose was a saint in life and now, in her death. 

The history of Lejac Residential School does not end with Rose. There are many other stories of the hundreds of Indigenous children who were isolated from their families and communities. 

You can find out more about Rose and the other children of Lejac here: 

https://www.interior-news.com/community/remembering-lejac-residential-school/

http://www.nadleh.ca/our-people/our-history/

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lejac-residential-school-four-boys-runaways-death-1.4473885

https://www.amazon.ca/How-Survived-Lejac-Residential-School-ebook/dp/B00A59OJOO

 

Maddie is a fourth year student at the University of Ottawa majoring in History. She is a major fan of Friends, and The Office and is a geek for all things history. Maddie loves food, relaxing, and her cat.
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