Hundreds Of Bodies Found At Catholic Church Operated Residential School
The Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan has found 751 unmarked graves on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School, which was run by the Catholic Church.
The discovery in Saskatchewan was made less than a month after the remains of as many as 215 children were found in unmarked graves, at the site of a former Catholic Church operated residential school in Kamloops, B.C. The Kamloops discovery led to a national self-reflection of Canada’s residential schools’ legacy and renewed calls to search the grounds of all former residential schools across North America.
Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme announced the discovery via a virtual news conference. Delorme says it is still not clear whether all the graves contain children's remains. Delorme also announced that the site will be treated as a crime scene at the moment.
Where were the bodies found?
Marieval Indian Residential School was initially operated by nuns from the Roman Catholic Church and was bought by the Candian federal government in 1926. In 1949, parent petitions of a non-religious school that could provide a higher standard of education but were denied. The federal government finally took over day to day operations in 1968. The Cowessess took it over in 1981. The school was closed in 1997 and in 1999 it was ultimately dimolished.
While some in the community wanted the school preserved as a museum and a reminder of the suffering inflicted by the Catholic Church there, others preferred it gone and insisted on tearing it down to build a new one, a Canadian newspaper reported
"While the school itself was demolished, the church, rectory and cemetery remain.”
What has been the government's response?
Several provincial governments have pledged support to first nations in the aftermath of the Kamloops discovery. Ontario recently committed $10 million to support Indigenous-led efforts to commemorate and investigate burial sites at former residential schools. In the United States, an investigation was also launched into residential schools there as well. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the U.S. Department of the Interior launched an investigation into possible burial sites at former ingenious boarding schools, which are similar to Canada's residential schools.
What are Indian Residential Schools?
In Canada, the Indian residential school system was a network of at least 130 boarding schools set up to educate and subjugate Indigenous peoples. The residential school network was funded by the Canadian government's Department of Indian Affairs and administered by various churches. The Catholic Church has historically been heinous towards vulnerable people worldwide, has carried out gynocides and involved itself in multiple genocides, and has centuries of instances of abuse against women and children.
Two primary objectives of the residential school system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their home and families to erase their traditions and cultures and to ultimately assimilate them. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates more than 150,000 children attended residential schools in Canada from the 1830s to 1996. Children at residential schools died at a far higher rate than those in the general population. In nearly a third of the deaths, the name of the child wasn’t recorded; nearly half did not list a cause of death. When the commission concluded in 2015, it had determined that at least 3,200 children died in residential schools. Since 2015, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has added 980 names to its memorial register which steadily keeps growing.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.