Thursday, June 24, 2021

751 More Possible Graves at an Indigenous Residential School

The next First Nation to complete a radar search for unmarked graves held a news conference this morning at which they announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the cemetery of the Marieval Residential School east of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan.  I can't possibly just carry on celebrating our garden with you when this is in the news.

It's another tragic moment in the history of First Nations in Canada, piled on top of the decades of discrimination and repressive policies.  And we have 128 residential schools to go.

Let's be clear, this is just step one, the finding of a ground-penetrating radar study that outlines disturbance in the soil.  It does not detect skeletons, and some of these may be adult graves which oral history has suggested exist.  Neither were the children 'murdered' in the conventional sense; deaths were primarily by disease spreading rapidly through crowded unsanitary buildings.  Archeological excavations will be necessary for the next step.

Added together the discovery of this many bodies (966 at Kamloops and Marieval) begins to reach the scale when it should be seen as a war crime.  Considering as well that the children were removed forcibly from their families and indoctrinated against the entire culture they had been born in, it is hard to imagine anything worse in our treatment of Indigenous peoples.

The Cowessess First Nation which conducted the study will consult with its members before proceeding with any next steps.  This is another Catholic-run school, closed in 1997, and torn down two years later.  But there is an identifiable cemetery, and there are graves which do have headstones.  The adjoining church is still standing.

I leave you with this single picture of another of my favourite flowers here, in memory of the children who are buried there.  Please take a moment to remember them.



14 comments:

  1. Hold on. It’s going to be much worse! Genocide indeed.

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  2. I,too, would find it too hard to celebrate when this is unfolding, the families who didn't know, the children who were not cared for as they should have been, and no recognition of a grave marker and name, I hope the authorities had some guilt and shame, and how do we make sure this never happens again. Beautiful pink flowers, are they Clematis? A memory flower.

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  3. You've raised some good questions. I'm sure there will be many more.

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  4. Yes, there are probably many, many more unmarked graves to be found. I'm sure the same will be found at similar institutions in the U.S. The entire scenario,from removing the children from their homes and families, to incarcerating them in "schools", to trying to destroy their cultures, to their fates should be viewed as crimes.

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  5. It's so sad. I can hardly bear to think about those poor children.

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  6. This is so desperately sad.
    But your clematis is very pretty.

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  7. That sadly tends to be the way when such horrors are discovered; they turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Heartbreaking.

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  8. I agree with the other commenters. Probably just the tip of the ice berg. We humans can be so cruel.

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  9. We had a Pride flag in our front door. At this time of year, we would normally hang the Canadian flag, Last night we hung my orange every child matters shirt.

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  10. May we all learn from history and try to be compassionate with each other.

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  11. It is deplorable, unconscionable genocide. It break my heart to think of all the cruelty that these graves represent. So very sad.

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  13. My daughter's home is a mere half-hour from Cowessess and the Marieval cemetery site. Her town council have agree not to celebrate Canada Day this year as they normally would with a parade and fireworks, but rather to offer a time to reflect on the lives lost and to stand in solidarity with the band.

    I have read that some of the graves are likely those of adults that lived and worked in the area, but at some point, someone (the church perhaps?) had the markers bulldozed under. One has to wonder why? What needed to be hidden? While I hope there will be a concerted effort to either voluntarily or by court order have the church provide the records...I am positive they exist...I suspect the forensic work will go on for a decade or more.

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