The federal government is earmarking $4.88 million, a portion of $27 million already existing to support research and exploration of unmarked graves, burials and undocumented deaths at Saskatchewan residential schools.

“We’re going to take the funding, and we’re going to be able to utilize that not only conduct the ceremonies and the protocols necessary as they move forward, but also to work with the experts and the researchers to be able to do the work,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief David Pratt.

The FSIN has already identified the former residential schools of Muskowekwan, Onion Lake St. Anthony’s, Beauval, Guy Hill, Lebret, and Sturgeon Landing as possible sites for research, but the list of possible sites could grow.

Pratt explained that the Star Blanket Cree Nation, the Onion Lake Cree Nation and Muskowekwan First Nation are ready to proceed with research efforts.

The province has approximately 20 residential schools in operation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that approximately 566 children died at residential schools in the province, but that number could be much higher.

The Muskowekwan First Nation unearthed the remains of 35 children at its still-standing school, the site of today’s announcement, while performing line work. The discoveries date back to the early 1990’s.

“Today, we remember all of the lost children who never came home from residential school, they will not be forgotten. It’s important that we carry their stories forward with those of the survivors as we continue to walk the path of healing and reconciliation,” Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said.

On Friday, the provincial government announced that the FSIN would get $2 million for its research work. “It will be challenging and emotional road for all of us. But one we must walk together because it’s the right thing to do,” said First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Minister Don McMorris. “We owe it to those who were lost to this residential school system and those who continue to suffer from the effects.”