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Canada: Hundreds of graves found at Indigenous boarding school

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Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the grounds of former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewa said they have likely found “751 unmarked graves. This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations said the discovery, coupled with the recent discovery of the remains of over 200 Indigenous children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School shows “genocide” committed by Canada.

Cameron said “now we have proof … the world is watching Canada as we unearth the findings of genocide. We had concentration camps here. We had them here in Canada, in Saskatchewan, they were called Indian residential schools.”

The gravesite was administered by the Roman Catholic Church, Delorme said. He said there were once likely gravestones marking the graves, which could have been removed.

Removing gravestones is a crime in Canada, Delorme said, and the area is being treated as a crime scene.

He continued: “We cannot confirm they are all children. But there are oral stories that there are adults in this gravesite, as well.”

Delorme said the technology used to discover the grave had a error rate of roughly ten percent to 15 percent.

There is also the chance there is more than one grave in each site. Delorme said during the press conference he used “over 600” to be safe, pending confirmation of the graves.

Historic discrimination
The discovery comes weeks after the discovery of over 200 children’s remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which shocked the nation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described that discovery as heartbreaking.

Elder Florence Sparver recalled her time at the boarding school. She said the nuns were “rough” with Indigenous children and barred them from keeping their customs.

“We had our own way of honoring ourselves and Mother Earth”, Sparver said, remember that Indigenous “blessings” were banned.
Canada’s history of boarding schools for Indigenous children has made national news following the Kamloops discovery.

“They would just start beating you and lose control and hurl you against the wall, throw you on the floor, kick you, punch you,” Geraldine Bob, a survivor of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, said about her experience there in a report (PDF).

Kamloops was also administered by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has yet to apologise on behalf of the papacy for the actions at these schools.

Delorme said the “Pope needs to apologise for what has happened to the Marieval residential school” to help survivors and descendants heal. “An apology is one stage of many in the healing journey”.

Delorme said, going to say Canada needs “truth and reconciliation” about its historic treatment of Indigenous people.

Source: Al Jazeera


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