Muskowekwan Nation ready to start painful search for school graves again

Pandemic put a hold on the search at the Muskowekwan school in 2020.

When news of the 215 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school in British Columbia broke, it hit the community of Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan hard.

Many of the community members are survivors and they pass the still standing Indian residential school everyday.

People here say they have bad memories were brought to the surface say survivors.

Cynthia Dejarlais, a band councillor for the Muskowekwan First Nation, said that just before the pandemic hit, the community discovered 35 unmarked graves on the Muskowekwan Indian residential school site.

“In 2018 we did a project with the University of Saskatchewan and University of Alberta. At that time we didn’t even know about ground sonar penetration and at that time they came out here because we always knew the history of the school that there were unmarked graves in our area here,” she said.

The group had plans to continue searching the area for more graves, but then the pandemic put the project on hold.

Soon after, the discovery of the 35 graves the community held a ceremony for their spirits.

“So we had a ceremony for the people buried here in the back they our elders told us theirs a lot of areas that haven’t been explored yet,” said Dejarlais

Holly Geddes who is also a band councillor for Muskowekwan and a survivor of the school, said she grew up hearing stories about unmarked graves and the extreme abuse, but she didn’t want to believe it.

“All of a sudden all of the stories that my grandmother had told me were true. Three days ago I realized the horror stories she told me were true. When she told me I said ‘don’t say that people aren’t like that it cant be true,’” she said.

“I feel guilty I didn’t believe her. I believe her today.”

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said he has the support of the Saskatchewan and Federal governments to conduct radar ground searches on all the Saskatchewan school sites.

“The work is going to happen on the radar ground searches we hope to get it this week and if not early next week we have support from the provincial governments the federal governments,” he said.

“We have support from our survivors and our chief and councils we have support from our families.”

Cameron said even though this is a step forward in uncovering the lost children of our residential schools, saving our children in care today is also a priority.

“We have a lot of work to do to get our children back home from social work ministries they are still taking our children from our homes and our communities,” he said.

“Modern day residential school kidnapping is still happening in first nation country and the implementation of Bill C 92 bringing our children home where they rightfully belong.”

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