Old Stone Church and Cemetery, Cowichan Bay/Duncan

Located on the Cowichan Indian Reserve on Vancouver Island, the church and cemetery are significant for their association with early missionary Father Pierre Rondeault (Rondeau), who arrived from Quebec in 1858 and set out to build his congregation in the Cowichan Valley. Father Rondeault was conversant in Chinook Jargon. From humble beginnings, the first church was a small log building which Rondeault built himself with materials donated by the local First Nations. In 1870, the stone church was built with funds raised from the sale of butter from the mission’s dairy herd. Ten years later, it was discovered that the church had mistakenly been built on land without clear title, and the structure was abandoned for a new church ordered by Bishop Demers.
Repairs to the original building were attempted in 1922 and again in 1958 and 1980 when it was rebuilt as a cultural centre, but the church rapidly reverted to the ghostly vandalized structure prominently located on Comiaken Hill. Since then, the stone church has become a standing ruin, and is considered haunted by locals.
The church is also valued as a cultural landscape which helps to illustrate the movement of religious orders through the region, including later associations with the Sisters of St. Ann, as part of the area’s transition from fur trading to a self-governing colony.
The Sisters of St. Ann arrived in Victoria from Quebec in 1858, to establish education and health service for new settlers and Indigenous people. While many of their contributions are celebrated, in 2014 the Sisters acknowledged that their involvement in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools contributed to a form of cultural oppression that has had a lasting effect not only on those who attended the schools but also on subsequent generations.