July 21st, 2024

Manitoba First Nation reports 150 anomalies found at former residential school site

By The Canadian Press on July 3, 2024.

A First Nation community in northern Manitoba says ground-penetrating radar has found 150 anomalies at and around the site of a former residential school, along with 59 unmarked graves at a nearby cemetery. Cutouts of orange T-shirts are hung on a fence outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, July 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

CROSS LAKE, MAN. – A First Nation community in northern Manitoba says ground-penetrating radar has found 150 anomalies at the site of a former residential school, along with 37 anomalies more than a kilometre away and 59 unmarked graves at a nearby cemetery.

The anomalies – places where the ground has been disturbed – were found at depths of between one and two metres. The discovery means work is now needed to determine whether some of the anomalies are unmarked burial sites, the chief of Pimicikamak Cree Nation said Wednesday.

“It’s quite shocking to hear that many (anomalies), because you wonder how many missing children are there,” Chief David Monias said.

The St. Joseph’s Residential School, managed by the Roman Catholic Church, operated in the community from 1912 to 1969 and housed children from across northern Manitoba.

Researchers earlier documented 85 deaths of children at the school, Monias said when the radar search began two years ago.

Documents at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation say the school at times suffered outbreaks linked to overcrowding, including a spread of tuberculosis in 1943.

Monias said the community wants help to continue the investigation.

“We need an independent, unbiased body to come and help with these searches,” Monias said.

Searches at former residential schools have been launched in many parts of Canada since 2021, when ground-penetrating radar discovered 215 anomalies at the Kamloops Residential School site in British Columbia.

In Manitoba, 14 anomalies were found at the site of the former Pine Creek Residential School. Following excavation, there was no evidence of human remains.

The Sagkeeng First Nation found 190 anomalies in the soil in 2022.

Across Canada, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed abuse at the schools and estimated 6,000 Indigenous children died at the institutions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2024.

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