Despite advances in medicine at the start of the 1900s, child mortality remained high until well into the middle of the century. In the Residential Schools, disease was, by far, the leading cause of death. In this series, we will remember some of the students who died and provide first-hand accounts where possible.
Florestine Cryer was a student at Blue Quill Residential School in St. Paul’s, Alberta. In January 1938, with her parents at her bedside, Florestine died in her home. While we know that other students at the school had typhoid fever near the same time, the cause of Florestine’s death was not stated.
The Blue Quill students had a school paper entitled Moccasin Telegram, much of which is still available to read. One of Florestine’s classmates, a young girl named Jane Wisky-jack, wrote a touching eulogy for the paper, which is found below.
Jane Wisky-jack, Grade 5
Florestine Cryer was very sick and she had to go home. When she was here, she was a very good little girl and nearly every morning she went to Mass until she fell sick. She is Ida’s sister.
On January 11th, at midnight, she died, but we are all glad to say she had a happy death. She talked Cree when she was going to die. She looked up and said: “Wait, I am not yet finished”; then she said to her father to live a good life and he would merit heaven when he dies. Then, she looked at my mother and said: “Do you hear God calling me? I must go now.”
I was not there, but it was told to me by my mother when she came to see us last Saturday, January 15. My Mother made flowers for her coffin. What a great thing it is for a little girl of ten years old who died a happy death.
Students in front of Blue Quills Residential School, 1940.