In the first step to implement the Davin Report, three industrial residential schools were established in the West in 1883. Denominational administration of these schools possessed advantages in economy and organization that, despite Davin's reservations on this matter, were recognized. The schools thus came under the auspices of the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church. The school at Battleford was established as a Church of England responsibility, while those at Lebret (near Qu'Appelle in the Treaty 4 area) and Dunbow (near High River in the Treaty 7 region) were assigned to the Roman Catholic Church.

In accordance with contemporary attitudes toward women and education, these three schools admitted boys only. The curriculum included a general education as well as agricultural training. The "industrial" aspect of the schools focused on equipping some of the pupils in trades deemed particularly useful to life on the prairies-blacksmithing and carpentry. Administrators also considered the residential component an advantage as it isolated the students from the "backsliding" influences of home and family that might otherwise have impeded the student's success.

The schools made no effort to act on Davin's emphatic recommendation that Métis staff or students could potentially play a valuable role as cultural brokers between students and administration. Initially there was little restriction on who might attend these schools, but, by the 1890s, the government offered funding only to the children of Status Indians.

These industrial schools, and particularly the institution in Battleford, displayed a variety of problems that would plague students and their families throughout the existence of the industrial residential education system. For students, difficulties included homesickness, harsh discipline, inadequate food and medical services, and physical and sexual abuse. Parents resented restricted visitation rights, feared that their children were being exploited as unpaid workers, and worried about the loss of culture wrought by assimilationist programs. They also suffered very real fears for the general health and well-being of their children. The schools themselves suffered from inadequate funding and the presence of employees who were sometimes poorly educated or exhibited inappropriate behaviour.

These problems were not universally characteristic of either these three schools or the system as a whole, but they were prevalent enough to raise repeated criticism over the years. That Natives could themselves view such an educational system as a positive force is evident in the decision of Red Crow, a signatory of Treaty 7, to send his son to the school at Dunbow. He believed that the school would provide his son with the means to thrive in the changing world. Of the three schools established in 1883, only the one at Lebret, now under the control of an Indian administration, remains in existence today.

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