Records of Manitoban residential schools in Oblate archives
This thesis explores how the Roman Catholic religious congregation the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have mediated the archival records from residential schools that the congregation operated in Southern Manitoba from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries. This includes questions over the broader contexts that influenced these mediations, the role of other colonial entities, such as the Canadian state and other Catholic entities, and how such mediations have shaped the composition, custody, and management of school record collections. This in turn could impact how archival users can access and use these records alongside these collections’ access policies. To examine these questions, I use a close reading of primary and secondary texts about the Oblates’ involvement in the residential school system to identify contexts relevant to the creation and management of school records. As well, I examine the form and structure of school records to observe how these contexts impacted these records’ characteristics and compare these records to the obligations mandated for the Oblates by various government and Catholic authorities as to note any discrepancies. Finally, I use a variety of sources from the archives and draw on work by archivists who have managed school record collections to show these records’ custodial histories and the various archival environments they have existed in up to the present day. This thesis argues that while the Oblates have never had absolute control over school records, their pervasive autonomy in managing school records remains key to understanding the contents, contexts, and custodies of these records over time. Given this autonomy, there is a need to to examine the Oblates’ role in shaping record collections as a distinct entity due to their autonomy in both operating residential schools and managing school records. Ultimately, by documenting Oblate contexts and mediations, archivists and researchers can develop responsive policies, practices, and research strategies that can better meet researchers’ specific interests and needs with these records.
Residential schools, Archives, Church archives, Oblates, Manitoba