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William John Hills Collection
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William John Hills immigrated to Canada sometime in the 1890s from the United Kingdom. Hills was considered to be a ‘home child’ who along with many other were sent to Canada between 1869 to the late 1930s during the child emigration movement. Hills ran away from his labour-based placement and was adopted by the Speer family. Hills married Betsey (née Jones) Hills in 1906. The Hills and Jones family were friends with Joe Keeper, a Canadian marathon athlete in the 1912 Olympics.
Some members of the Hills family worked for the Norway House Indian Residential School, located in Rossville, Manitoba. William Hills and his son, Arthur Edward Hills, born in 1909, worked at the Norway House school while Betsey’s brother, Joseph Jones, began as a teacher in 1914. Betsey taught sewing at the school while William worked as a custodian. William also created a garden to grow fresh vegetables for the children and the staff members. Joseph later became a Reverend and the principal of the Norway House school from 1944 to 1946. During William’s employment at the school, he took various photographs as an amateur photographer. He died in 1961.
Norway House Indian Residential School was a boarding school for Aboriginal children built in 1899, managed by the Methodist Missionary Society of Canada. The school began with three staff members and 56 students in its first year. The original building was destroyed by a fire on February 26, 1913. After the new building was built, the school reopened on October 15, 1915, able to accommodate 80 students. The school was operated by the United Church in 1925. Norway House reopened again in 1954 after another fire that destroyed the building on May 29, 1946. The Indian Affairs Department officially closed Norway House as an Indian Residential School on June 30, 1967. The building was then converted into classroom space for the Day School Programme for children living in the area.
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University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
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Created by Sara Min on 3 May, 2017.
Personal information in the Biographical sketch is based on an interview with the donor.
“Home Children Records,” Library and Archives Canada, last modified April 26, 2017, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/home-children-1869-1930/immigration-records/Pages/immigration-records.aspx
“Norway House Indian Residential School,” the United Church of Canada Archives, http://thechildrenremembered.ca/school-locations/norway-house/#ftn2
“Norway House (U.C.) IRS School Narrative,” National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, last modified June 2, 2006, http://nctr.ca/scripts/mwimain.dll/1493708751/2/1/53?RECORD&UNION=Y#/1493708756/2/1