Hundreds of unmarked graves have been found at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, Canada, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) confirmed.
The school site sits at Cowessess First Nation, located about two hours east of Regina. The community is holding a news conference on Thursday to share their latest findings, which FSIN referred to as a “horrific and shocking discovery.”
"The number of unmarked graves will be the most significantly substantial to date in Canada," said FSIN, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.
Few details have been offered so far, but Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme told PostMedia that the number of human remains exceeds 300. Marieval Residential School was open from 1899 until 1997. There were about 20 federally run residential schools in Saskatchewan out of 139 across the country.
“I’m just totally speechless at how many little ones went missing and never made it home,” former student and now vice chief of FSIN Heather Bear told PostMedia.
A month ago, the undocumented remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as 3, were found buried under the former Catholic-run Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. The news confirmed what Indigenous folks have been saying about residential schools for decades, and many more sites just like it are expected in Canada and the U.S.
Residential schools were run by the Canadian government and churches to forcibly assimilate 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children. Sweeping sexual and physical abuses were common and thousands of children died. According to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, about 4,100 students were killed, but that number is likely to climb. Experts think it’s closer to 15,000.
FSIN announced its own plans to investigate unmarked graves last month and demanded support from the federal government. “There are thousands of families across this country and in our Treaty territories that have been waiting for their children to come home,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron.
Muskowekwan First Nation, a community about one and a half hours north of Regina, Saskatchewan, confirmed earlier this month that it found the remains of 35 undocumented children at the site of former residential school Muscowequan and Touchwood. Another 35 unmarked graves were found at the former Regina Industrial School, as confirmed by the Regina Indian Industrial School Commemorative Association, an organization that cares for the cemetery at the site.
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Anyone experiencing distress or pain as a result of residential schools can call the Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419). It’s available 24/7.