The school was located on the shores of Pelican Lake on the traditional territory of Lac Seul First Nation. It was situated 10 km from the town of Sioux Lookout and 3 km from a stop on the Canadian National Railway in a heavily wooded area. Water surrounded the school on all sides except to the south, which was cut off by the railroad. As you can imagine, the school was isolated making it hard for people to access and leave. Part of the reason this site was chosen was that there were more than 100 acres that, once cleared, could become a farm. The railroad was used to bring materials for building, as well for long-distance travel (being 1800km from Toronto), and, importantly, for students to run away from school.
In 1978, the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council was given control of the school. Today, it operates a private, Indigenous-controlled school on the site of the former residential school. The Indigenous-controlled school is called Pelican Falls First Nations High School. Students come from the twenty-four First Nations in the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents forty-nine First Nation communities in Northern Ontario. The school is designed to meet Indigenous needs and interests for self-determination. Here, the students participate in culturally relevant programs like dogsledding, net-setting, trapping, snowshoeing, quinzee building, and survival skills. They also offer traditional technologies, such as birchbark basket and snowshoe building, paddle making, and tikinagan construction.
The formal process for treaties with Indigenous nations in Canada can be found in the Proclamation of 1763 and continued into the 1850s. The post-Confederation Numbered Treaties, specifically Numbers 1 to 11, were signed between 1871 and 1921. The opening of Sioux Lookout Indian Residential School in 1926, situated in Treaty 3, was part of the federal government’s desire for Indian residential schooling in Northern Ontario. It was also an obligation to fulfill Treaty 9, which included the provision of education for the Indigenous people in that area. In addition, some of the children who went to the school were from the Treaty 5 area. Therefore, the school affected the Indigenous people in the three treaty areas.