Following the tragic discovery of a host of unmarked burial sites at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, calls have been forthcoming to mount similar investigations at other residential school sites. The Province of Saskatchewan announced on June 18 that it would provide $2 million in funding to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) for research on former federally operated residential schools in Saskatchewan.
"In the wake of last month's discovery at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, it is clear that research and exploration into undocumented deaths and burials must be carried out in Saskatchewan," McMorris said. "The $2 million announced today by the province of Saskatchewan will help ensure this work can begin, and help bring peace to those who suffered under the residential school system, and peace of mind to those who continue to suffer from its effects. I strongly call upon the federal government to immediately match these funds and help carry out this vitally important work in the province of Saskatchewan."
Immediate attention will be given to former school sites at Muskowekwan, Onion Lake St. Anthony's, Beauval, Guy Hill, Lebret and Sturgeon Landing as the most possible, but the list of locations could grow. Many First Nations across the province have already pressed ahead with plans. The FSIN is in consultation with Bands as to how to best support their processes.
"The Province of Saskatchewan has committed $2 million to begin the work and research necessary to bring these little lost souls some peace," FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said. "It's a good start but much more will need to be done as Saskatchewan had one of the highest numbers of residential schools in the country. This work will take years to complete and proper ceremony and protocol must be followed at every site. Elders, knowledge keepers, survivors, their descendants, and First Nations communities must be a part of this process every step of the way. This work is vital for many of these survivors who have been sharing their stories for years. We must come together to help them heal."
The residential school system operated in Canada for more than a century. The federal government reports that 150,000 Indigenous children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend these schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates that approximately 20 federal residential schools operated in Saskatchewan from the 1880s to the 1990s.