The Jungle Aircraft Monument in Thompson, Isle of Man, is intended to pay tribute to aviation in the north It also sent a painful reminder to the boarding school survivors who were airlifted from the community to the school.
“They just loaded us on the plane and that’s it. We have no choice at all,” said Rene Job, a 76-year-old boarding school survivor from Caribou Lake in Southend, Sask.
A few years ago, Job and his daughter went to a meeting in the northern city of Manitoba.
While exploring the city, they came across a monument on which there was a Norseman seaplane from 1946, which was repaired by volunteers and placed there in 2008 by members of the Spirit Way trail to fly northward. Tribute to the pioneers.
Job realized that on his way to Guy Hill Indian Boarding School in Mann Pass, the plane was used to transport him from Southend to Flynn Furlong, Man.
He said: “Many children are vying to get on the plane.”
“They just put them on the plane and take off from there. From there weep to Flynn Furlong.”
Job was about eight years old when he was sent on a plane and sent to a boarding school for the first time.
From 1953 to 1957, he spent four years in Guy Hill. He said: “What happened to us is not very good.”
When he saw the plane in Thompson, he said it brought many painful memories.
“I’m standing next to that plane, [and thought] Boy, there must be a lot of tears in the plane,” Job said.
Job’s daughter, Rachel Merasty, said he has been educating her family about his experience in boarding school since they grew up to understand what happened.
“Seeing the actual plane he entered, it brought it into reality,” she said.
“This is a big blow to me.”
Remind the history of the North
The monument is located on the main entrance road into the city, which is inevitable for many aborigines from surrounding communities.
Andrina Dumas’s mother was taken by a jungle plane to Guy Hill boarding school, and she thinks it should be removed.
“It’s on it, and everyone knows its purpose, which makes me very angry,” Dumas said.
“I think it should be dismantled and moved to other places, such as a seaplane base that may be in the same area. This is what it should represent.”
Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation elder Marie Ballantyne said this is a common view.
“This is part of Thompson’s own history. Many boarding school survivors have had a difficult time. [seeing it],” she says.
“I have talked to many people who really want to see the plane crash. But that is part of the history of this area.”
Manitoba Keewatinook Okimakinak, representing the Northern Aboriginal Chief and Thompson City Aboriginal Strategy, placed a plaque near the plane in 2019 to commemorate the role of the plane in transporting children to boarding schools.It was used as a meeting place after it was announced at the end of last month that a ground penetrating radar survey showed that potential students were still staying on the premises of a former boarding school in Kamloops, British Columbia
Ballantine, who has lived in Thompson since the late 1970s, said she felt she should stay as a reminder of northern history.
“That plane…it dates back to when Thompson first established himself,” Ballantyne said.
“That plaque is influential because it is a place where many survivors go…it brings you back to the age of boarding school far from home and unable to go home.”
Job said that although it brings memories, he hopes to visit Thompson’s plane again in the future.