Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced today that they have discovered 751 unmarked graves on the site of Marieval Indian Residential School.
The process of uncovering the grave site began June 2nd, 2021, following the discovery of a mass unmarked grave in Kamloops, British Columbia.
The Marieval Indian Residential School was constructed in 1899 by Roman Catholic missionaries. The identities of those in the unmarked graves are unknown, at this point, as Cowessess First Nation is in their first stage of discovery into this site.
The Catholic Church, operating Marieval, had headstones at the gravesite, but had them removed at some point, over the years. In 1987, the school was turned over to Cowessess First Nation. Marieval Indian Residential School’s operations ceased permanently in 1996, making it one of the last residential schools to close.
“The Roman Catholic Residential School has impacted us intensely, and today, we have generations that may have not gone to residential school, but they are feeling that second and third generation impact,” said Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation.
Chief Delorme shares that he is in contact with the local Archdiocese of Regina, Donald Bolen and is optimistic moving forward that they should face no obstacles in obtaining school records through the church.
Moving forward, Chief Delorme asks for Canadian solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
“Stand by us as we heal, and we get stronger. And that we must all put down our ignorance and accidental racism, on not addressing the truth that this country has with indigenous people. We are not asking for pity, but we are asking for understanding. We need time to heal and this country must stand by us.”
Chief Delorme says that putting names to the unmarked graves is priority, “we want to honour our loved ones that lay there today.” He emphasizes that the site will be a future space for community healing as Cowessess First Nation works to identify those in the gravesite.
“There’s going to be many more stories in the future, and this is Cowessess First Nation’s moment for our truth,” Chief Delorme states in his closing remarks to the announcement this morning.
For those in local to Sault Ste. Marie or the North Shore, Maamwesying has a crisis line available at 1-844-864-0523.
The IRSRHSP has a National Residential Schools Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419 that provides immediate emotional support for former Residential School students. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.