There appears to cautiousness among some First Nations on whether to proceed with attempting to locate unmarked graves at residential schools, while others are forging ahead.
“Some of the most poignant testimonial that I’ve received from leaders and Indigenous Peoples generally is there are some people that still are not prepared to speak about their experiences, because they have been so traumatic,” said Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller. “I’ve also gotten requests from chiefs, that they are not prepared to do this.”
Since the unearthing of remains of 215 children at a residential school in Kamloops in May, Sask. First Nations have been eager to begin ground-penetrating radar on at least a half-dozen potential sites identified by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
One of those sites is the Muskowekwan residential school where there the remains of at least 35 children have been discovered over the decades.
The province had approximately 20 residential schools.
The federal government said there is $27 million which can be accessed by First Nations seeking to investigate unmarked burial sites.
Yet as this work produces sites with human remains, what will the protocols in recovering be, as Miller said there could be potential legal ramifications.
“I think that is why there is so much difficulty and challenging in establishing clear protocols. I don’t think any community would appreciate investigative forces coming in with yellow tape and putting them all up around potential sites,” Miller explained. “These are very sensitive issues. They are potential crime scenes you can’t hide that fact that there is a corresponding search for truth that no one wants to see any tampering evidence, I think is that has guided are very delicate and sensitive approach, focusing on the communities for and closure for answers.”
Miller said its important that First Nations have access to school records, but speculated that the county may never get a full picture or that questions will be answered satisfactorily on unmarked graves at residential schools.