STAR BLANKET CREE NATION – The Star Blanket Cree Nation in Saskatchewan says ground-penetrating radar has discovered more than 2,000 areas of interest and a child’s bone at the site of one of the longest-running residential schools in the country.
“It was unthinkable. It was profound. It was sad. It was hurtful,” Chief Michael Starr said Thursday.
“And it made us very angry what had happened to our young people here.”
Areas for the search were selected after testimonials from former students and elders who witnessed or heard stories of what happened at the school. The jaw bone fragment was identified to be that of a child from about 125 years ago.
“This is physical proof of an unmarked grave,” said project lead Sheldon Poitras.
Poitras said his team is looking at options, including DNA testing, to confirm what is there. But, he says, they don’t believe all are unmarked graves.
The school was one of the first three industrial schools to open in Canada and was run by the Roman Catholic Church from 1884 to 1973.
It operated for another 25 years until it closed in 1998.
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools over a century in Canada and reports have detailed that many experienced emotional, physical, sexual and spiritual abuse.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.