Hello ~ Tân’si ~ Edlánet’é ~ Dahneh Dha’ ~ Nezu dágóts’e ~ Masì  ~  Ah ~

Oki ~ Aaniin ~ Aba Washded ~  Tawnshi ~  Wa-é ák-wé ~ Bonjour

Welcome to the online home of the Ghosts of Camsell. My interest in the Charles Camsell Hospital began with research for my last book, Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, when I learned of the tuberculosis x-ray tours of Indigenous communities and how many were sent to the Camsell TB sanatorium – sometimes for years; sometimes never to return home. The Camsell is reputed to be one of Edmonton, Alberta’s most haunted sites and its long, complex past has certainly haunted my imagination. The site, especially when it was set up as an Indian Hospital between 1946 and 1968, is a perfect intersection – and perfect storm – of colonial health policies, aviation, the North, medical history, and residential schools. My hope is this small website, facilitated by the Edmonton City as Museum Project Partnership Demonstration initiative, will start unpacking some of this past. It is only the first step in a long journey of research and reconciliation.

I would love to share in your stories and photos through this project and others that will follow. Also, as a non-Indigenous researcher, I am always looking for partnerships and guidance from Elders and others who can help me understand this shared past – and communicate it respectfully.

 I hope you will join me.

Please note: I am guided by the ethical guidelines and principles for working with Survivors and Aboriginal communities espoused by the Legacy of Hope Foundation.  1) a deep concern and compassion for, and honouring of, Survivors, their families and communities; and 2) a clear understanding of the need for and importance of the oral tradition of Aboriginal peoples. If you have concerns about any of the material on this site, please contact me. If you find yourself triggered by any of the Residential School content, please call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line for former Residential School students: 1-866-925-4419. For other types of support in the city, please go to the Aboriginal Edmonton Directory.


65 thoughts on “

  1. Janice waltze April 6, 2015 / 3:20 am

    Interesting read! My mother was a nurse there I remember the Eskimo and Indian people making soapstone carvings, mukluks and crafts! Very talented!


    • Cassandra March 31, 2016 / 5:24 am

      Eskimo is a really derogatory term. Inuk could replace it.


      • historiandmc March 31, 2016 / 1:43 pm

        Hi Cassandra, yes, words/terms in common usage in mainstream society have certainly changed from earlier years and I always try to use Inuit/Inuk/Inuvialuit because that’s what the community has said is correct. It’s good for all of us to pay attention to these things. Thank you!


      • Adam May 11, 2016 / 4:00 am

        I find it prudent to mention that the Charles Camsell was run by the “Department of Indian and Eskimo Affairs” so although that term may be frowned upon, in this context not necessarily out of place.


      • historiandmc May 12, 2016 / 2:22 pm

        It is certainly tricky terminology for many of us to navigate, but when there is so much baggage associated with terms, we need to tread carefully. In terms of ‘Eskimo’, the term has been reclaimed by some Inuit and rejected outright by others as, at best, ignorant, and at worst, racist. When we’re quoting sources from the time period of course we use the original words – in quotation marks! And interestingly enough, the Camsell over its long lifespan, looks like it came under the oversight of several different federal departments. And then of course was run by the Government of Alberta after 1980. It’s good to have these debates and discussions; in the end I always bow to what individuals and communities prefer, because I think that’s accurate and best for reconciliation!


      • Ralph and Jen Watzke October 3, 2016 / 4:46 am

        There are Inuit people who even today self-describe as Eskimo. We kñow Edmonton retired Lawyer Keeviak (formerly David Ward), who habitually referred to himself as Eskimo even in recent years – he liked to say he was the only Eskimo to ever have played football with the Edmonton Eskimos. Also, in Regina SK in 2015, we met a man driving a classic 1968 Chrysler who proudly described himself as Eskimo! It is also still the common usage in Alaska, Sara Palin’s husband so self-describes also.


  2. Tina Dmytryshyn April 22, 2015 / 10:58 pm

    My father fought in WWII and he was wounded in Italy. After he was wounded he contracted Pleurisy. He was eventually shipped home on the hospital boat the Queen Mary to Halifax and then home to Alberta by train. He underwent several operations at the Camsell and spent 4 years in hospital. That’s where he met my mother, she was a nurses aid. They were married in 1948.


    • historiandmc April 23, 2015 / 3:58 pm

      Tina – what a wonderful story. Perhaps you could share it at our upcoming oral history recording session around the Camsell Hospital on May 19, 2015? I’ll be posting details soon.


  3. Dr Jean-Claude Marcoux, ba dc (ret.) April 26, 2015 / 10:09 pm

    Very touching indeed ! Interesting and revealing video, Danielle… It somehow reminds me of how those people were treated here in Québec : good intentions but bad procedures produced what we call in our province “les enfants de Duplessis” (prime minister “Duplessis’ kids”), those hundreds of children brought down south in institutions (directed by nuns) away from their families and their culture to be “ecucated” the white people way…In Alberta,they tried to save their bodies from turberculosis…In Québec they tried to save their souls from damnation…With doubtful disastrous results for sure.


  4. Valerie Kaufman May 3, 2015 / 12:59 am

    Interested in the May 19 oral history recording activity? Where, and what will be shared? I have many family members who were at one time or another in the hospital for various reasons including TB.


    • historiandmc May 4, 2015 / 2:45 pm

      Hi Valerie – thanks for your interest in our upcoming session! Yes, anything connected with the Camsell is fair game to record during this evening event. Please check out the blog post “Tell Your Story” on the right of the screen for all the details. Thanks and look forward to meeting you on the 19th!


  5. Candace Schubinski May 23, 2015 / 7:28 am

    I was born in that hospital.


  6. Ellen Smith May 27, 2015 / 7:06 am

    I remember the old Charles Camsell Hospital, I visited pts there as student certified nursing in training and after I graduated I worked I the Charles Camsell Hospital for six months, the old hospital then, them moved to new facility in 1967. So sad to see it abandon now. When I visit Edmonton, I always go by to see my old stomping grounds. I had relatives that died in the old Charles Camsell and are now buried outside of St.Albert. Need to go the monument on my next visit.


  7. Ellen Smith May 27, 2015 / 7:09 am

    My daughter Maryanne Hoggarth was born in the hospital, Dec.2,1966


    • historiandmc May 27, 2015 / 2:56 pm

      Thanks for sharing those stories – sounds like you have a lot of connections with the Camsell!


      • Ellen Smith May 28, 2015 / 7:25 pm

        Yes, I sure did have a lot of connections to Charles Camsell Hospital.


  8. Jennifer Shaw June 9, 2015 / 3:23 am

    I was born at the Charles Camsell. 1975.


  9. Louise Beaulieu July 10, 2015 / 12:09 pm

    Hi i was in Charles Camsell for TB 1969/70 for 9 months. I wad about 16 years then. I was isolated for three months until my result (TB specimen) came back from the lab. I had needles every morning before breakfast. And if you didnt get your needle, u dont get breakfast. On the 7th floor was TB ward. We also had a free haircut n hairdo on the main floir of Charles camsell. They were many of us for TB from the north. Some pass away n never get to see their love ones. And some nade it home n i was one of them that made it home. Contact me if u need more info.


  10. louise beaulieu July 10, 2015 / 12:30 pm

    Hi i was in Charles camsell hospital between 1969 and 1970. I was there for 9 nine. Steadily we were given needles every morning before breakfast. No needle no breakfast. I was isolated for the first three months and if the specimen came back positive, you were isolated for the next three months. I dont recall having any tv ot phone in my room when i was isolated. I don’t remembered having any music or books to read. I remembered my brothers Henry and moise came to visit me in different times. Luckily i didnt stay another three months isolated. I get to mingle with other patients which was near Christmad holiday. Some people were very fortunated to go on passes with their live ines. We had presents given to us donated by done of the organizations from Yellowknife.
    I am from Yellowknife and I am from Yellowknives Dene First Nation. I am dene and i had live in the north most of my life. Although i had move various places home is where the heart is. If u need more information contact me through email.


    • historiandmc July 10, 2015 / 4:14 pm

      Louise, thanks so much for contacting me through this site and I’m so glad you made it home. I will definitely follow up with you as I move forward and if you’re ever in Edmonton, please let me know. I may get up to Yellowknife again in the next year or so and I’ll look you up. If you know of anyone else who would like to share their stories, I am happy to listen and try and make this history better known. Mahsi Cho.


  11. Shannon Houle July 10, 2015 / 9:22 pm

    Just to inform you of an error in the Charles Campsell Book. My mother was the first baby born at the hospital after my grandmother had TB while pregnant. My mother was named Alma Theresa Janvier and her parents were Adeline (Jacko) and Moise Janvier. There is a picture of my late grandfather holding her outside the hospital but the book says she was a boy, untrue & not sure how they could get that wrong. She was born March 23, 1946. Maybe you can help correct this inaccuracy as my grandmother stayed there for almost 2 yrs and never raised my mother due to her illness etc.


    • historiandmc July 11, 2015 / 3:43 am

      Hi Shannon, Thanks for writing and sharing this piece of your family history – and the Camsell’s. I’ll definitely file it away and see how I can help correct the record. Unfortunately errors can creep into any piece of work and since the book is long since out of print, they probably can’t do anything about it now. But in my own work, it’s important not to repeat errors from other sources, so I’m very happy to hear from you. I hope I can get in touch if I need more details? Thanks, Danielle


  12. Chantelle clark July 10, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    i was born there and want to know more. Thank you.


    • historiandmc July 11, 2015 / 3:40 am

      Hi Chantelle,
      Thanks so much for your note and nudge to keep going with my research and writing about the Camsell. I will keep at it for sure!


  13. Chris July 10, 2015 / 10:28 pm

    Just dropping to have a read and pass it on to others in my circle.
    Please continue your search as long as possible. Histories like these need to be brought into the light for all to see.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
    -George Santayana (16 December 1863 in Madrid, Spain


    • historiandmc July 11, 2015 / 3:39 am

      Thanks so much for your support and encouragement, Chris. I agree completely!


  14. Monique July 13, 2015 / 5:48 pm

    Hi there. I eas looking at researching for a book as well. I still have my list of contacts even though I had to stop my research. Might you be interested in these contacts? If so pls contact me. Would love to assist you in your endeavors . I live not far from the hospital and have always wanted to tell its story. Looking forward to hearing back. If you could email me that would be best. I will put my research together.


  15. Monique July 13, 2015 / 5:50 pm

    Hi there. I was looking at researching for a book as well. I still have my list of contacts even though I had to stop my research. Might you be interested in these contacts? If so pls contact me. Would love to assist you in your endeavors . I live not far from the hospital and have always wanted to tell its story. Looking forward to hearing back. If you could email me that would be best. I will put my research together.


    • historiandmc July 13, 2015 / 6:53 pm

      Thanks so much for your note and your offer of help. That is most generous of you. Yes, I’ll email you right away!


  16. Mary July 17, 2015 / 11:42 pm

    Hi I was there


    • historiandmc July 18, 2015 / 3:14 am

      Thank you for your comment. If you’d ever like to chat more about your experiences, I would be happy to follow up down the road.


  17. Another Indian July 23, 2015 / 6:18 pm

    This is an appropriate job for the indigenous communities, or an approved representative, to be the ones to clear any misguided or ill informed information from the slate. Having an appointee from the city go through and determine which of the historical documents are to be kept and what is to be destroyed, as well as being a white filter for all for the stories, is complicit in the furthering of a colonial history of which we are still perpetuating.


    • historiandmc July 23, 2015 / 9:29 pm

      Hi Kris (aka Another Indian), Thanks for weighing in here. I try to be a good ally in the fight for reconciliation and will take your comments to heart. I’m not sure where you got the information about my getting to “determine which of the historical documents are to be kept and what is to be destroyed,” though. I certainly don’t have that authority at all. If anything I’m trying to unearth hidden sources and go beyond government or colonial documents to actual stories from people who were there. History is fundamentally connected to structures of colonialism, I agree, but I’m trying to help decolonize its practise and be transparent in my motives and methods. Also, I just want to make it absolutely clear that I’m an independent researcher and writer and arm’s length from the City. Take care, Danielle


  18. sheldon August 13, 2015 / 10:42 am

    Mahci cho for all your efforts documenting the history of this particular hospital.

    As I was born there Devils Night, 1966, the significance of its History has alluded and now, finding myself rather intrigued into its origins.

    Will certainly follow your blog with much curiosity (p.s. Since I was adopted it would be reflective this hospital(s) impact on western Canadian ‘Sixties Scoop’


    • historiandmc August 13, 2015 / 4:57 pm

      Hi Sheldon,

      Thanks so much for getting in touch and am happy I can be helpful in bringing its history to light for people such as yourself with personal connections. I’ve just been starting to learn about some of the adoptions connected to the Camsell. If you’re willing to chat sometime about this, I would welcome the opportunity to try and meet and talk with you. Please let me know if I can follow up down the line. Best, Danielle


      • sheldon August 14, 2015 / 2:25 am

        Mahsi for prompt reply Danielle! As I reside in Ontario please feel free to contact thru my email.

        Look forward to hearing from you,

        Respectfully, sheldon

        Liked by 1 person

    • No June 2, 2016 / 8:18 pm

      Hi I was also part of the scoop. My mother was a nurse’s aid there. I’ve always assumed I was born there. Any ideas about where those records ard now?


      • historiandmc June 3, 2016 / 4:51 pm

        Hi, Thanks for getting in touch through here. The records question is a tricky one I’ve been trying to figure out as I do the research. It sounds like a bunch of them from the time it was a Federal Indian Hospital (1946-1980) ended up at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. I’m working with one family to do an Access to Information Request for any records to do with a deceased loved one and I would be happy to help you with that process too. It’s a bit of paperwork, about a $5 fee, and a lot of waiting.

        Then it sounds like the later records when it was run by the Province of Alberta likely ended up at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton but as part of their record-management system they destroy records every seven years (space concerns, privacy issues, etc). The other main spot for births, deaths, etc to check is the Provincial Archives of Alberta which holds vital stats records. Depending on your mother’s religion, there might also be something in one of the records sets of the different churches present at the hospital. Sometimes things got mentioned in the Camsell Arrow or local newspapers too…

        So you see, it isn’t always easy, but I’m trying to put together a bit of a guide to help people track down their information and get some answers. In the meantime, feel free to email me at info@daniellemc.com if I can help guide you.


  19. Matilda (Mattie) McNeill September 8, 2015 / 1:09 am

    I have a long history with the Charles Camsell Hospital. I was admitted to Ward 5 of the “old” Camsell on Aug 10, 1958 and discharged in Nov 1960. In 1965 I was a patient in Ward 1 for 11 months. I subsequently was a patient in the “new” Camsell a number of times between 1967 and 1978(?). My son was born there on July 29,1970.

    I must have been one of the lucky ones as my stories are mostly happy, positive ones. I remember a lot of the staff and patients who were on the same ward as me.

    I would welcome an opportunity to share my memories in more detail.


    • historiandmc September 8, 2015 / 8:00 pm

      Hi Mattie,

      Thanks so much for your note and I’m glad your stories are happy ones! There is certainly a whole lot of diversity in the history and experiences of people. I’ll be sure to follow up with you by email when the funding (hopefully) comes through and I’m able to resume my work on the hospital’s history and legacy.


  20. Barbara Verhaeghe September 21, 2015 / 6:00 am

    Both my brother and son’s born here brother was born Feb 6/86 my son was born June13/89 my other son Sept 17/91


  21. Nola Wanuch October 6, 2015 / 1:32 pm

    Hi there. My late mother was a nurse at the Charles Camsell hospital during the 60’s. I’m looking for photos of her if any. Can you point me in the direction of where I may look for said photos?


    • historiandmc October 6, 2015 / 3:01 pm

      Hi Nola, My best guess would be to get in touch with the City of Edmonton Archives and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Best of luck!


  22. Thomas October 7, 2015 / 7:08 am

    Really didn’t like it.


  23. Val Kipling October 29, 2015 / 5:22 pm

    Hello. I was born at this hospital in 1970. My mother was a patient there for roughly 4 years when her lung collapsed. I remember my grandmother calling us when there were family in the hospital. She would tell us to go visit so they wouldn’t be lonely there. We spent a lot of time wondering the grounds and halls. Getting in trouble from the nurses because we ended up in the morgue or psychiatric unit. I still go and walk around the place. See faces in the windows. My son remembers the was the hospital use to look in the 60′ but I have never taken him there. He even described what the inside looks like from what i remember, he was right. I saw the video of the names but where are the remains? Something i’ve always wondered i guess. Thank you for having this website so we can all learn of the history and some of us can reminisce.


    • historiandmc November 2, 2015 / 4:41 pm

      Hi Val, Thanks so much for your comment! If you cruise the different blog posts you’ll see maps and photos of the St. Albert Cemetery where there is an Aboriginal Cemetery housing the remains of the Protestant Indigenous patients who died at the Camsell during its Indian Hospital period. I’m still trying to figure out where the Catholic patients might have been buried. Perhaps we can chat more sometime about you and your family’s experiences. Take good care, Danielle


  24. Rosalie Cockney December 21, 2015 / 6:24 pm

    I spent 3 weeks there when I was 10 years old for ear surgeries and it was one of the worst times of my life. I was told they did experimental tests/surgeries there and I always wondered if mine were…..also the surgeries did not help much.


    • historiandmc December 22, 2015 / 2:51 pm

      Hi Rosalie, Thanks for reaching out and sharing your experience and I’m sorry you had such a negative experience. I’ll send you an email – along with the other former patients and loved ones – in the new year to keep you up to date on what I find and see if I can provide some more answers. Best, Danielle


  25. Edward December 22, 2015 / 10:41 am

    I had tb before that camsell got abandoned it fells like I lost in this world can’t do anything but that hospital save me all those nice angels but now its sad to see all that long history is down in flames but when I found out that they are rebuilding that place into apartments I’m so gonna move there that place will never stop will it🙂


    • historiandmc December 22, 2015 / 2:51 pm

      Hi Edward, Thanks for your note! Take care, Danielle


  26. scott e briggs January 13, 2016 / 1:51 pm

    i had a cornea eye transplant in that hospital in 1996 I think it was unfortunately cornea didn’t work now I have mark on the cornea that doctors say cant be repaired, I don’t know what happen , but I don’t remember what level I was on but im doing ok now , but what I remember the level I was on ,the nurses station and rooms to the east wasn’t being used heck everything was empty in the nurses station but everything to the west was used a very busy with nurses station and the beds only thing that wasn’t empty to the east side of that hospital was the tv room I was in there alone watching tv , sometimes I wonder of im the only one with drafts around me watching tv with me


  27. Maison March 9, 2016 / 7:00 pm

    I had an evp device, i heard a voice say I am oliver? anyone know what this could be?


    • historiandmc March 10, 2016 / 2:43 am

      Hi Maison, Thanks for sharing what you heard. I can keep an eye out for anything to do with an ‘Oliver’ and try and pass it along.


  28. Maison March 30, 2016 / 4:54 am

    I went back here and I just got to say, I feel so much pain and sorrow everytime I go here. I managed to take an odd photo from the front side of the building. In the photo, one of the windows appeared to have an old box television powered on. It looks like a tv screen or something electrical on inside the window. It didnt have anything other than it looked like it was on a static channel. What bothered me was that I was told that all the floors except for the basement and first floor were torn out. I also think I caught a spirit walking on the same floor as the tv photo. I was using a negative camera, which can catch changes in light, ive caught weird things on it before so I know that it works. In the video it appears someone was looking out the window, it then dissapeared and seconds later appeared in the window where the tv photo was taken. It then seemed like it walked back then came up to the window and stood there with its hand on the window, thats when it walked away and it never reappeared. I am wondering if this is the spirit Oliver. This was a spirit that was using my evp device to talk to me?


    • historiandmc March 31, 2016 / 1:39 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing that information, Maison!


  29. Vivian Treadwell April 3, 2016 / 6:40 am

    I think it would be a good idea to have the face of the cairn replaced with a new face so that the names of the deceased can once again be clearly seen and won’t be forgotten.


    • historiandmc April 6, 2016 / 1:46 am

      Hi Vivian, Thanks for your comment. I’ll make sure it gets to the right ears. There’s a lot of thinking going on right now around the Camsell and its commemoration from different people and groups! Best, Danielle


  30. Mike Dingeldein April 17, 2016 / 2:53 am

    My late inuit grandfather spent a number of years in the Camsell hospital with TB. His name was Harry Kegiona.. He was found by missionaries in a snow storm wrapped in furs when he was a baby but his parents had not made it through the storm is what he was told. He grew up in orphanages in Coppermine and led a pretty interesting upbringing.. went to Winnipeg and became a Watchmaker around 1957 and opened up Harry’s Watch Repair in Grande Prairie, AB which he ran until late 1990’s…


    • historiandmc April 18, 2016 / 3:44 pm

      Mike – what a fascinating story (and so sad about his early loss of parents). Thank you so much for sharing it! If I find any information on him would you like me to pass it along? Best, Danielle


      • Ellen Smith April 18, 2016 / 4:43 pm

        Interesting, if only walls could talk

        Liked by 1 person

  31. ANNA July 1, 2016 / 9:36 am

    My personal experience as a patient there was horrific! I asked my mom why I was there for and she did not know. I was approx 8 years…and I was taken right from my Reserve after school in Northern Alberta and placed at Charles Camsell…I don’t know how long I was there for however, i only remember a balcony on that floor where all us children can go out for some sun and air. I only left the hospital once and still don’t know the older women’s name, I was taken to her home as an outing, I remember she had many cats at her home. I was hit a lot because I cried due to missing my family! I remember waking up one day there with my entire head bandaged and half my head was shaved- I now know that I was operated on. Behind my right ear is a surgical scar. I just recently found out from my doctor that a bone was removed from my ear, due to infection. The part I don’t understand is why two nurses in particular were so mean. 1 of the nurses would hit me so hard on the side of my right head that I would slide into the wall…I just remember the pain I felt and how I wished I was home safe with my family! When the nurse did this to me the other would laugh…I was only 8 years old! I would completely freeze when those 2 nurses came into my hospital room. Today from all the blows I have taken to the head and my ear…I have had ear problems to this day! I am legally deaf in my right ear and have a hole in my left ear that thankfully closed. I have witnessed other abuses on an Inuit girl- Eva was her name- older girl who held me when I cried. The sound of children crying due to loneliness from being away from home was enough to make others cry. It was hard…I don’t understand why the abuse had to happen in a place of Healing…it caused me a lot of emotional pain. Yes I have stories of that place …it was not the building it was those who were employed there…please dont get me wrong not all employees were abusive, to me it reminds me of Residential School experiences.


    • historiandmc July 6, 2016 / 2:09 pm

      Dear Anna, Thank you so much for sharing your story here. My heart breaks for you and what you went through as a child. You sound incredibly strong and I am grateful that you put your experiences down here for others to learn from. Sincerely, Danielle


  32. TheresaEH August 26, 2016 / 8:37 pm

    If my mother was alive today she would be 94 years old. Her good friend (also deceased) was a nurse who worked in the maternity ward. (Think old fashioned white uniform with hat). When the women from the reserves or “up north” came to the camsell to have their babies she was their nurse. She was an old fashioned, no nonsense lady, but I will bet my last $ she never was cruel. But she liked to tell stories out of school and my mother told me these stories as she slipped into dementia. If a mother from “up north” or from the reserves was A) on welfare B) possible alcoholic C) had many other children the doctor would declare with NO testing and NO consent that the woman had “cancer of the uterus” and give them a hysterectomy. NO ONE questioned his authority, it was the convention of that time.


    • historiandmc August 29, 2016 / 3:31 pm

      Hi Theresa, Thanks for sharing this important information. It is a complex story for sure and reflects a lot of the thinking of the time. I think it’s important to know the whole, unvarnished story and think long and hard about it – and reflect on how we do things today.


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