A total of 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of the former Marieval residential school, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan said Thursday.
The announcement was made on Zoom by FSIN chief Bobby Cameron and Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme and comes weeks after 215 unmarked burial sites were reported found at a residential school in Kamloops.
Chief Delorme said they cannot confirm all the unmarked graves contain children. There are oral stories of adults being buried there as well. The residential school gravesite was run by the Roman Catholic church.
“We are treating this as a crime scene at the moment, and we’ll know more as continue our search,” Delorme said.
Delorme added that this is not a mass grave site, instead calling the discoveries unmarked graves.
“In the 1960s, the Catholic Church removed the headstones and today, we have over 600 unmarked graves,” Delorme said.
Marieval Indian Residential School operated between 1899 and 1997.
According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation records, the school was constructed by Roman Catholic missionaries. The federal government started funding the school in 1901.
The national centre’s public records list eight student deaths.
Cowessess First Nation had begun the process of locating unmarked graves on June 2 with the help of Saskatchewan Polytechnic using ground-penetrating radar technology.
Members of the media were asked not to visit the school or community site due to COVID-19 safety restrictions in place.
This is a developing news story. More to come.
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access the 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419
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