WARNING: Disturbing content.
An emotional journey to bring home missing residential school children has begun, as the Star Blanket Cree Nation is conducting a ground-penetrating radar search of land near the former Lebret Indian Industrial School.
Chief Michael Starr said a lot of pain has been reintroduced back into the lives of community members. “Processing that has been a challenge for themselves,” he said.
The search, which started earlier this week, is initially focused on a 55 acre parcel of land. The search grid will move clockwise eventually covering the site of the former residential school.
“We feel we are going to find some unmarked graves,” explained Starr. “The stories that we hear that’s, where we potentially may find more unmarked graves.”
The First Nation is in the process of assembling an archival research team to comb through local, provincial and federal records of residents who attended that residential school.
“If there were any legitimate deaths recorded, we would cross reference those and basically, at the end of the day, the names are on the list, we have no account of where they went or what’s happened,” said Starr.
Yet he said through the process of elimination, the First Nation may not be able to identify all the unmarked graves.
Upon discovering the first unmarked grave, the search will be temporarily halted to observe what was found.
Starr explained that the residential school did not have a documented cemetery, with the closest being in Woodbridge. The First Nation has reached out to the Roman Catholic Church to form a partnership to search that cemetery.
“At the end of the project, there’s going to be a ceremony to kind of send them (children) home as a closure,” Starr said.
Support is available for those affected by their experience at Indian Residential Schools and in reading difficult stories related to residential school. The Indian Residential School Crisis Line offers emotional and referral services 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419. In Saskatchewan, the Regina Treaty Status Indian Services at 306-522-7494.
(Photo: Library and Archives Canada)