Fire destroys historic building at Anaham
A 26-year-old Anaham man has been arrested after a piece of history went up in flames shortly after midnight Sunday.
The convent building which housed the Catholic Missionary Sisters of Christ the King from the Chilcotin First Nations community of Anaham is now ashes.
Two Alexis Creek RCMP responded to the report of a break and enter in progress which eventually led to an arrest.
"The suspect was caught red-handed, we were fortunate that the RCMP were on the reserve at the time and able to respond immediately," said Anaham Chief Joe Alphonse. "As they (RCMP) approached the premises the suspect fled out the front door and the two officers were waiting for him. He then attempted to assault one of the officers."
The officers were able to subdue the suspect without injuries to any of the parties involved. The accused is well known to police and was released on special conditions and scheduled to appear in court in Williams Lake Wednesday.
During the arrest, it was learned the residence was on fire. Several residents were alerted as well as the fire department who attended the blaze but were unable to suppress the fire. Volunteers were successful in containing the fire from spreading to nearby residences.
The structure dates back to 1944 when Alphonse's grandfather, the late Chief Casimir Bob, offered the nuns land and Archbishop William Mark Duke financed the building of a convent. The 70-year-old building had sat idle for less than a year and was still in great condition before it was engulfed.
Last fall a community luncheon was held on October 27 to say goodbye to the last remaining nuns living in the convent on the reserve. An aging order caused the nuns to move to the mother house for retired missionaries in Laval, Quebec.
The building was currently being used to store supplies from the Anaham school as a new school is under construction.
"We had moved all the desks and other items into the convent and were using it for temporary storage," said Alphonse.
Alphonse had hoped to eventually turn the structure into a safe house for youth.
"Our long term plan for the building was to turn it into a safe house to protect our young people. It's unfortunate that these plans are now ruined. We are disappointed in the young fellow who did this and it was very irresponsible," said Alphonse.
Alphonse and many others were sad to see a building of such historic value destroyed. It was the last remaining relics of the sisters who spent seven decades on the reserve working as teachers, nurses and in pastoral care.
“I think everyone in the community, all of the clans, all of the family groups, have countless stories that they could share. There’d be endless stories about all the good work and all the good-hearted work the nuns have done over the years.”