The Bill Hillman Manitoba Archive Series

Photos from the
Collection of James George Milne
Farming Instructor at the School c.1902
Commentary by
Mary Lynn Milne ~ South Surrey, BC
(Many of the photos may be clicked to larger size)

Early postcard view of Brandon Indian Residential School
James George Milne

James George Milne, my grandfather, was a Farming Instructor at the Brandon Indian School in Manitoba from 1900-1906. 

Prior to that, from 1899-1900, he was Foreman at the Indian Head Experimental farm in Saskatchewan. Prior to that, from 1889-1899, he was a Farming Instructor at the Regina Indian Industrial School in Saskatchewan. In 1906, he and his family moved to Craik, Saskatchewan, where he managed a farm until 1910, at which time he moved to Coronation, Alberta to establish a homestead. My Uncle Harold Milne stayed to farm the homestead so, at my grandfather's death, these photos were in his hands. 

Upon his death in 1978, the photos were passed on to his sister, my Aunt Annie (Milne) Moir, an avid genealogist (before computers). When she died in 2006 at the age of 103, the photos fell into the hands of her two daughters, who passed them on to my eldest sister, who passed them on/off to me in the summer of 2012. I am very happy that they have found a good home with the Brandon Photo Archives—an excellent and thorough site.

~ Mary Lynn Milne

Click for larger images

Brandon Indian Industrial School ~ c.1902
Students and staff in front of the main building.


Students and staff gathered alongside the main building.

Brandon Indian School Barn

Children tended the animals, which, by 1912, numbered 50 head of cattle, 12 horses and two colts, 45 hogs, and 100 hens. In 1916, after the farm’s stock was increased to make up for a failed harvest, there were 120 head of cattle, 30 horses, and 50 pigs.

Student Handling a Bull

At work in the fields ~ August 5, 1902

Summer of 1902 haying

Brandon Indian School Farm ~ 1902

I do not see my grandfather in the group photo above. He was born in 1867 and I remember him only when he was in his 80s and I was a child of less than six. I saw him rarely as our family (my father was son Charles) lived in a different location. I do have a photo of him, likely taken sometime in the 1890s but am unable to match it (ears, hairline, trademark moustache) with any of the men in the Brandon School group photo. My aunt's research indicates he was definitely on staff at that time, and it probably doesn't matter whether he is in the photo. What is important is that the photo is in pretty good shape for being more than 110 years old and should prove interesting to other generations. 

Writing on the back of one of the photos suggests that T. B. Barner, the photographer, was on staff at the school. (Addendum: A woman in Saskatchewan, a great-great grand-daughter of T. B. Barner, contacted me after seeing this page and, in her words, “The balding staff member with the long impressive beard on the left of the staff group is T. B. Barner, the man who took some of the other photos. The photo is likely to have been taken before November 1902 (approx) since T. B. Barner had moved to Saskatchewan by then.)

A great-great grandson of T. B. Barner contacted me after seeing this page and sent me a group photo of staff and students at the Brandon Industrial School (below). My grandfather is at the far left in the back row. 
The miniature here comes from that photo. (courtesy of Larry Harris, Houston, TX)

I feel that the photos are of historical significance because they show a rich and ancient culture in the process of becoming "civilized" to adhere to European standards. I suppose at the time the powers-that-be thought they were doing the right thing. I found a quote on another site that reflects my view (albeit from a much later perspective) and I'd like to share it.

"Why should we expect that Indians alone, of all people, should be quietly ready to give up all old customs and traditions and language, and adopt those of the aggressor on their soil? The change which we expect the Indian to make, and make so quickly, is a far greater one than is required of any of those nations above enumerated [Germany, Sweden, France, Italy], who have left the shores of one civilized country to come to those of another.With the Indian, the change is a radical one—a  change of dress, a change of dwelling, a change in mode of gaining livelihood, a social change, a religious change, an educational change a totum in toto change. And this—not so much for his own benefit, as for our own convenience. We want the land. We cannot have Indian hunters annoying our farmers and settlers. If the Indian is to remain, we expect him to be a decent neighbour; and to be a decent neighbour, we expect him to accept our religion, our education, our laws, and our customs. We allow him no choice and we allow him no time."
(Attributed to E.F. Wilson, Principal of Shingwauk Residential School. May 1891. The Canadian Indian. Vol. 1, No. 8) (from site: Regina Indian Industrial School)

Both the Brandon and the Regina schools were Residential Schools but I have been assured by Milne Family research that Grandfather James was a very tolerant and hard-working individual with a fine sense of humour and an open mind. He would have focused only on teaching his students useful skills, would not have imposed his beliefs on them nor attempted to extinguish their indigenous cultures. His attitude would have been in stride with the above statement attributed to E.F. Wilson, Principal of Shingwauk Residential School, May 1891.

Mary Lynn Milne
South Surrey, BC

Photo of staff and students at the Brandon Industrial School

                                                                                                                                                                                                Courtesy of Larry Harris, Houston, TX

Principal Thompson Ferrier taking children to school, 1904.
Children often travelled great distances to reach the school,
exposing them to extreme weather and other dangers.

The School Building in its Final Years

From our Poster and Collage Page
Brandon Indian School
Poster Version


Off-Site Reference:
Brandon Residential School

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