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'Hundreds of unmarked graves' found at former residential school in Saskatchewan

Last Updated Jun 24, 2021 at 7:53 am PDT

Photograph of Native boys from the Indian school of Marieval, Saskatchewan identified without any order: [Louis Agecontay, Frank Lerat, Isidore Smoker, Fred Acoose, Marvin Rainville, W. John Delorme, Solomon Still, Louis Swarvier, Willie Adams, Clifford Lerat , Vincent Delorme, George Red, George Delorme, Laurence Sparvier, Ernest Lavallée, Alexandre Tanner, Francis Kay, Louis Lavallée, Ernest Still, Edward Pelletier, Lernard Tanner, Robert Redwood, Noel Acoose and Pierre Lavallée.] Ca. 1934, Oblates of Mary Immaculate Oblate Province of Manitoba / Delegation / SHSB 28847. Credit: University of Regina

Editor’s note: This article contains some disturbing details about experiences at residential schools in Canada and may be upsetting to some readers. For those in need of emotional support, the 24-hour Residential Schools Crisis Line is available at 1-866-925-4419.

The Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan says they have uncovered the “horrific and shocking discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves” at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.

In a release, they say the number of graves is the most “significantly substantial to date in Canada.”

A press conference will be held on Thursday to reveal the details of the findings.

Perry Bellegarde, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a tweet late Wednesday that the finding at Cowessess is “absolutely tragic, but not surprising.”

“I urge all Canadians to stand with First Nations in this extremely difficult and emotional time.”

The Marieval Indian residential school. Credit: University of Regina
The Marieval Indian residential school. Credit: University of Regina

 

The discovery comes soon after another mass grave was unearthed by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation at the former Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia last month.

The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were found buried on the school grounds – once the largest in Canada’s residential school system.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation said at the time the discovery was an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”

The federal government has since offered $27 million in funding for all First Nations communities to help identify and investigate marked and unmarked burial grounds near residential schools.

Ontario has committed $10 million and Alberta $8 million for Indigenous communities to locate and investigate grounds surrounding residential schools in those provinces. Manitoba has also announced $2.5 million in funding to identify and commemorate burial sites at residential schools in the province.

The Quebec and federal governments have announced a plan for a central place for the province’s Indigenous communities to go for support over former residential schools.