By Mickey Djuric
THE CANADIAN PRESS
GEORGE GORDON FIRST NATION, SASK- A Saskatchewan First Nation says 14 possible graves have been found at the site of a former residential school north of Regina.
Chief Byron Bitternose of the George Gordon First Nation says the findings follow months of work with ground-penetrating radar in four areas near the former school.
“In upcoming months, this area will be a priority area for continued searching,” he told a news conference Wednesday.
“It is my hope that one day we will be able to tell our children the whole story.”
The George Gordon Indian Residential School, near the village of Punnichy, was first established by the Anglican Church of Canada in
1888 and operated until 1996, making it one of the longest-running residential schools in the country.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has a record of 49 student deaths there.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called the George Gordon school one of the worst run in the entire residential school system.
Sarah Longman, a member of the First Nation and head of its residential school cemetery committee, said the search has been challenging for the community and for those who attended the school.
She said the radar can’t determine if those buried at the site were adults or children, but there’s a high probability they were children.
She said she expects the search will continue over the next 10 years.
“We’re dealing with 100-plus years of history of the residential school here in George Gordon, so there’s a lot of work and a lot of area to cover.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the space of where we’re going to be able to identify (bodies),” she said.
“We don’t have the technology first of all to do that. We don’t have the records to be able do that. There’s still a lot of missing pieces.”
An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada. Several First Nations have announced over the last year that unmarked graves have been detected at some former school sites.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering with trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse.
The number is 1-866-925-4419.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2022.