1859 First Schools in the Northwest Territories

It was the Church of England’s (Anglican) Archdeacon James Hunter who is believed to have taught the first formal classes in the Northwest Territories in 1859. To keep himself and others occupied during the long, cold winter nights in Fort Simpson (map)he started an evening school with six students. The curriculum was “strictly reading, writing, and arithmetic with each evening closing with a Bible reading and prayers” and classes were conducted in Hudson’s Bay Company quarters.

The following year Reverend William Kirkby, Hunter’s replacement, began construction of a log schoolhouse at Fort Simpson. This school operated sporadically over a number of years, was moved from its original location in 1925 and as late 1959 was still in use.

Anglican Bishop Bompas established a second Northwest Territorial school in 1866. This Fort Norman school was to house and educate orphans of the 1865 scarlet fever epidemic that killed many in the Mackenzie valley. It too only lasted a few years.