Canada must brace for many more revelations of mass graves at for Indian Residential Schools according to First Nations leaders. This comes as Cowessess First Nation says it has found an estimated 751 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.
The discover came after radar scanning of the school grounds and surrounding area on June 1.
In a press release the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations (FSIN) and the Cowesses First nation said “The Marieval Residential School gravesite was overseen by the Roman Catholic Church from 1886 to the 1970(s). During this time children who attended Marieval and passed were buried at this gravesite. In the 1960’s the Catholic Church removed the headstones and today we have over 600 unmarked graves.”
“There will be hundreds more unmarked graves and burial sites located across out First Nations lands at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.
Ontario Cree MPP Sol Mamakwa said in a tweet,
“These children were taken from their parents, and never returned home. Their families never stopped searching for them, and never stopped missing them. They are not numbers. They are children.”
There are now calls for both the federal government and the various churches to release any documentation they have that would assist in identifying the victims in the unmarked graves.
This discovery comes less than a month after the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves at Kamloops Residential School in Kamloops, B.C.
The Marieval residential school operated from 1898 to 1996 in the Qu’Appelle Valley. It was run by the Roman Catholic Church until Cowessess First Nation took over its operations in 1981.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, Indigenous Affairs Minister Caroline Bennett was forced to apologize to independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybold for suggesting she was angling for her parliamentary pension in issuing a tweet calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to stop thinking about an early election to demand he deliver on his 2018 promise to deliver transformative Indigenous rights.
For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted to the news of the discovery of the burial site saying in a statement
“The findings in Marieval and Kamloops are part of a larger tragedy. They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – in this country. And together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future.”
The Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll free line is: 1 (800) 721-0066.
A 24-hour crisis line for residential school survivors is: 1 (866) 925-4419 for those who may require further emotional support or assistance.