Skip to main content

169 'potential graves' found at former northern Alberta residential school


WARNING: This story contains disturbing details

A northern Alberta First Nation says 169 potential graves have been found using ground-penetrating radar at the site of a former residential school.

Kapawe’no First Nation, about 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, says a specialized drone was also used to find evidence of graves at the former Grouard Mission site.

“We remember the devastation our people felt when our children were forcibly removed from their families, communities to be placed in Indian residential schools,” said Chief Sydney Halcrow.

“We are forever grateful for their sacrifice and courage. These findings we are talking about today validate their lived experiences.”

The archeology department at the University of Alberta led the project in an effort to help the community’s collective healing.

“This summary provides an overview of the results of what is the beginning of the long journey to find answers to what happened to the children who never came home,” a report on the first phase of the investigation reads.

“The results … indicate there is more work to be done.”

The report shows investigators found 129 probable graves, eight likely graves and a further 32 possible graves for a total of 169 potential graves.

The investigation was limited to a one-acre area. Investigation into further areas is planned for the coming months.

A majority of the potential graves, 107 of the total, were found in the community cemetery.

The residential school, also known as St. Bernard Mission School, was opened by the Roman Catholic Church in 1894 and ran until 1961.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard testimony from survivors about serious abuse and manual labour at the school.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has records of 10 student deaths there.

According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the residential school in Grouard, Alta., nearly 400 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, operated from 1894 to 1957.

By 1949, Métis students accounted for half of the student body in residence.

Further investigation will focus on oral histories and further archival research as well as more field investigation.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected.

People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

Motion to allow keffiyehs at Ontario legislature fails

A motion to reverse a ban on the keffiyeh within Queen’s Park failed to receive unanimous consent Thursday just moments after Ontario Premier Doug Ford reiterated his view that prohibiting the garment in the House is divisive.

Stay Connected