CHOUTLA INDIAN SCHOOL – CARCROSS – CANADIAN INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL SYSTEM
(Choutla School, Carcross) A scarce and dated 1920 photograph of ten Choutla Indian School students. In 1903 students from the school at Forty Mile, Yukon, were moved to a small school in Carcross. In 1911 the federal government through the Canadian Indian Residential School System built the Choutla school. Choutla had a reputation for poor health, harsh discipline, poor food, and unpleasant living quarters. In the 1940s, the principal admitted to strapping students so severely that they had to be held down. Burning down in 1939 it was rebuilt in 1944 with a new school being built in 1953. Choultla closed in 1969.
In the September 22, 1911 issue of The Weekly Star under the headline of Rapid Progress – Indian School Building at Carcross Nearing Completion; the following article was written.
“ The editor of the Star visited at Carcross the latter part of last week and while there went to see the new Indian school building which he was shown through and over by Contractor Eli Hume and Building Inspector Ole Dixon.
Heretofore the editor of the Star, who is quite familiar with every public building in the Yukon Territory, had reckoned the Territorial Court House and Carnegie Library buildings at Dawson the most substantial structures ever erected in Yukon, the Administration building coming next on the list. But for solidity of structure from foundation to turret, the Indian school building at Carcross is far ahead of any of them and is pre-eminently the finest and most substantial public edifice in the territory. Mr. Hume has not only followed plans and specifications to the letter, but he has seen that every part and detail will withstand the ravages of time and wear.
The exterior of the building is already completed and the interior is all that remains to be finished. Lathers, plasterers, painters, and, in fact, the entire force is now working indoors and making excellent headway. The heating plant installed by Matthew Watson of this place is almost completed and, barring further delay in receiving finishing material from the outside - considerable delay for that class of material having already been experienced - the building will soon be completed and ready for occupancy by the seventy native sons and daughters, for which number the capacity of the building is rated.
The building stands on a most ideal location, one capable of great improvement in the way of landscape work and scenic arrangement, and the future of the best building in the Yukon Territory will be watched with interest after it is turned over to and occupied by the Indian children and those having them in charge.”
The Choutla school was closed in June 1969 with the last remnants of the school, a garage and warehouse, being demolished in July 2017.
In July 1972, the Anglican Diocese of Yukon leased the school from the Yukon government and operated the Carcross Community Education Centre from then until June 30, 1979.
Unfortunately all was not well and in April 2001, lawsuits were filed against the Anglican Church and others for abuses against students in the 1950s and 1960s. Just last September (2023) an investigation into unmarked graves and the deaths of children who attended the former Choutla Residential School in Carcross, Yukon, has found 15 “potential” grave sites at or near the school. GeoScan, a British Columbia based company, has searched 37,000 square metres of land and all 15 potential sites were found within 58 square metres of the former school site.
Small ¼ inch tear to bottom right of photo. A very fine 5 ½ x 3 ¼ inch photo on a larger mount retaining the words Indian Students at Choulta Indian School Carcross.
Sources: The Weekly Star (Whitehorse, Yukon Territory), September 22, 1911; The Anglican Diocese of Yukon; The Canadian Press and Hana Mae Nassar.