Voices of the Present and Future has recently been reading about the 751 unmarked graves found at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. If you haven’t been following the news, please continue reading this post as this discovery just comes weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at a similar residential school in British Columbia.
A statement was given by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. He said he was “terribly saddened” by the discovery in Saskatchewan. He also said it was “a shameful reminder of the systematic racism, descrimination, and injustice that indigenous peoples have faced.”
Between the years of 1863 and 1998, there were more than 150,000 indigenous children that were taken from their families and placed in these schools throughout Canada. Often, these children were not allowed to speak their language or to practice their culture. Many being abused and mistreated.
A former residential school student, Florence Sparvier, spoke at a press conference stating, ” They made us believe we didn’t have souls. They were putting us down as people, so we learned to not like who we were.”
A commission that was launched in 2008 to document the impacts of this system, found that large numbers of indigenous children never returned to their home communities. The practice amounted to cultural genocide. In 2008, the Canadian government formally apologized for the system, although this does not bring back the lives that were lost or to quote the words used, “the souls” that were lost.
Chief Delorme said there may have once been markers for the graves but the Roman Catholic Church, which oversaw the cemetary, may have removed them. It is not yet determined if all of these unmarked graves are those of children.
There was an estimated 6,000 children who died while attending these schools. The students were often housed in poorly built, poorly heated, and unsanitary facilities. There was also physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the school authorities which led other children to run away.
I urge you to take a moment of silence for the lives of those lost and prayers that identities will be provided for the unmarked graves that have been found.
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