Cowessess First Nation finds 751 unmarked graves at site of Saskatchewan residential school

The Star: The discovery in Saskatchewan comes less than a month after the remains of as many as 215 children were found in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

A First Nation in Saskatchewan has found 751 unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school.

The news comes a month after a similar, though smaller, discovery in Kamloops, B.C., was made public, sparking a renewed reckoning with the brutal legacy of Indigenous residential schools in Canada.

Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme made the announcement Thursday in a virtual news conference. Delorme said it’s not yet clear whether the graves all contain children’s remains. They were found on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church.

The grave site was overseen by the church from 1886 — 12 years before Marieval opened — until the 1970s, Delorme said. Sometime in the 1960s, the church removed the headstones.

“We are treating this like a crime scene at the moment,” Delorme said.

He called on anyone listening to stand by Cowessess First Nation “as we heal and we get stronger.”

“We all must put down our ignorance and accidental racism of not addressing the truth that this country has with Indigenous people.”

They began their search of the Marieval site on June 2, about a week after the remains of as many as 215 children were found in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C. Delorme said they used the same ground-penetrating radar technology used in Kamloops, partnering with experts from Saskatchewan Polytechnic, which estimated a 10 per cent margin of error.

Delorme stressed that it was not a mass grave, but unmarked graves roughly one-metre-by-one-metre. He said this is only Phase 1 of the investigation, which included a search of 44,000 square metres. They will continue to search other parts of the site, he said.

“This is going to be years in the making.”

Delorme said the ultimate goal is to identify each of the remains and mark all of the graves.

“There’s going to be many more stories in the future, and this is Cowessess First Nations’”

Last month’s discovery in Kamloops has led to a renewed reckoning over Canada’s residential schools’ legacy and fresh calls to search the grounds of all former residential schools across the country, and even in the United States.

Earlier this month, Ontario committed $10 million to support Indigenous-led efforts to investigate and commemorate burial sites at former residential schools. Other provinces have made similar announcements. On Tuesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said her department launched an investigation of potential burial sites at former so-called Indian boarding schools, which were similar to Canada’s residential schools.

“Sadly, this is just the beginning,” said Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

“There will be hundreds more unmarked graves and burial sites located across our First Nations lands at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools. There are thousands of families across our Treaty territories that have been waiting for their children to come home.”

Canada once operated about 130 residential schools across the country. The last shut its doors in the 1990s. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that about 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children attended these residential schools. Continue reading full article…

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