Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation is undergoing a search process at the site of the former Fort Alexander Residential School.
Between 1905 and 1970, children from 21 communities were sent to the residential school, and Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson told 680 CJOB there have long been stories from residential school survivors about missing children.
Recent discoveries of unmarked graves at similar residential schools across Canada spurred the community to take action and conduct a search using ground-penetrating radar.
“We’ve had meetings in our community in the last while, since we heard about what happened in Kamloops with the 215 graves that were found there,” Henderson told 680 CJOB.
“That triggered our community…. We know through the residential school hearings and the Truth and Reconciliation report that a lot of our elders had spoken and said there were children that weren’t found or went missing. Some of them were friends of theirs.
“They did tell these stories, but they weren’t believed. Now that we’re seeing what is happening with these (other) residential schools, the truth is coming out.”
Henderson said as chief, he and his fellow council members have a responsibility to listen to the community’s knowledge keepers and do what they can to search the former residential school site — which includes the current location of the Sagkeeng First Nation band office.
“We did have one of the bigger residential schools in the area, so we need to do what is right and do the search — and whatever the results are, that’s what the results will be.”
Henderson said Sagkeeng has hired the AltoMaxx company, without government assistance, to use a drone and ground-penetrating radar to conduct the search.
“We’re not going to wait for the governments of the day to provide this funding. I know they’ve made announcements federally and provincially, but we’re doing it our way.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he would support a criminal investigation into residential schools.
“I will support anything that families need to move forward, for Canadians to understand the truth and to actually move forward on reconciliation,” Trudeau told Global News.
“We’ve known about (residential schools) for generations and Indigenous Peoples have known about them for generations.
“We have to remember that reconciliation is not about us deciding what the right thing is for Indigenous communities. It’s putting Indigenous communities, survivors, family members at the heart of it.”
Minister apologizes for residential school comments
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
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