Siksika Nation planning search for remains at former residential school sites

Alberta Indigenous leaders say they weren’t surprised to hear about the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Residential School.

“We’ve always known that there were many buried there,” said Cree Elder Ernie Poundmaker.

Read more: Estimated 751 unmarked graves found at former Saskatchewan residential school

Poundmaker lives in Calgary and grew up in Saskatchewan.

“We heard it through stories and you heard it from families that sent their children off to school never to see them again.”

“When I got news of that, I grabbed hold of my grandson and I said to myself: As long as I’m alive, you will never experience what hundreds of our people are experiencing today,” he said.

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Marilyn North Peigan is a Resolution Health Support Worker who has worked with survivors of the Marieval Residential School who now live in Calgary.

“There’s a lot of horrific stories there and it goes into the most extreme abusive situations with young children,” North Peigan said.

Read more: ‘Terribly saddened’: Trudeau laments residential school graves discovery in Saskatchewan

She hopes this latest horrific discovery will serve to educate people about Canada’s history and its long lasting effect on indigenous people.

“I have been hearing the stories so to me, it’s not a surprise,” North Peigan said.

“To me, this has to be an educational experience for the rest of Canadians because this is a Canadian issue. This isn’t an Indigenous issue.”

Click to play video: '‘A pedophile playground’: Survivor details experiences attending Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan' ‘A pedophile playground’: Survivor details experiences attending Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan

‘A pedophile playground’: Survivor details experiences attending Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan

According to Siksika Nation councillor Reuben Breaker, members will be at four sites on the nation east of Calgary on Canada Day to conduct a search for remains at former residential school sites.

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“I don’t even know how to explain it, but with what’s going on across the country, I’m scared of what we will find. We can’t wait for another year or two. The time is now. This is the truth.”

Read more: Members of Siksika Nation hold ceremony to remember children discovered in unmarked burial sites

For elders like Poundmaker, now is a time for grieving and healing.

“We still have to show the world who it is that we are. We are better than those people who did these horrible things to us,”  Poundmaker said.

“We are better than that. We have the capacity to forgive but never to forget.”

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