Warning: Disturbing Content.
The Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC) said it is extending its search grid for the Delmas residential school.
An initial search of the school’s foundation yielded zero anomalies in ground-penetrating radar conducted by SNC Lavalin.
Yet, Neil Sasakamoose, the Executive Director of the BATC said a gravestone of 13-year-old Henry Atcheynum was discovered approximately one kilometer from the search grid.
“Someone left him a stone in 1910. And we found him over a kilometer from where the residential school was,” Sasakamoose explained. “We’re going to start finding out what happened. Who are they? What are the names of the kids? Who were they? Where do they come from?”
44 deaths were recorded at the Delmas residential school, but Sasakamoose suspects that number is inaccurate.
Chief Lori Whitecalf of the Sweetgrass First Nation is a descendant of Henry Atcheynum. She said the family has no information on his death.
“The only child that has been found from Delmas Indian Residential School was my Great Great Grandfather Henry Atcheynum, he was born in 1896 and died 1910. We have no information regarding his death or how he became buried in the cemetery.”
The Delmas search will most likely be expanded north to the Saskatchewan River. Sasakamoose stressed that obtaining access to private lands of suspected search sites can be difficult, as there is a sense in the area that search parties are not welcome.
The Delmas search has halted for the winter, however there are plans to conduct a search of the Battleford Industrial School once Delmas has concluded.
Residential School survivor Jenny Spyglass remembers her and her two brothers being taken from her family in 1944. She emotionally describes how she missed and needed her parents.
“The most time I needed my mom, I was only four years old. In 1944, I got stolen, taken away from my mom,” Spyglass recalls. “My little brother [Reggie] never came back home. He died of starvation at the residential school. Today, I still miss him.”
The federal government is committing $2.8 million over three years for work, research, documenting and honouring those who attended the Delmas and Battleford residential schools.
“We’re not here to add numbers to a growing list. We’re here to put names to the people that are no longer here. That’s our goal. We want to give their name back to who their families were, and we want to let their families know where they are,” said Sasakamoose.
(Screenshot of the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs announcement of the search at the Delmas residential school.)
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.