Cadaver Dogs Unearth Indications of Historical Burials at Former Residential School Site in Ontario

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22 Alerts Indicate Presence of Historical Human Remains

Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation located in northwestern Ontario revealed that cadaver dogs have unearthed 22 “alerts” signifying the underground presence of historical human remains during ground searches at a former residential school site. The examination occurred over a span of three days in August, steered by the wise counsel of elders and survivors.

The First Nation disclosed on Monday that out of the 22 alerts, 19 coincided with the areas that survivors had marked as burial sites from the era of residential schools. This latest discovery is a grim addition to the previously identified 171 “plausible burials” connected to the old St. Mary’s Indian Residential School in Kenora.

Survivors Acknowledged and Honoured

Wauzhushk Onigum Chief, Chris Skead, extended a heartfelt acknowledgment to the survivors in a statement. He praised their resilience, the legacy carried forward by their children and grandchildren, and honoured their Indigenous spirit names. Chief Skead lamented on the historical attempts by Canada and the churches to obliterate Indigenous cultures, praising the enduring strength and traditions of the Indigenous community.

Anticipated Final Report in 2024

Operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1897 to 1972, St. Mary’s Indian Residential School has a dark past, with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) recording at least 36 student deaths during its operation.

The Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation has voiced a request for privacy at the moment but commits to keeping the nation informed about any further findings at the former school site. A comprehensive report collating all findings is slated for release early in 2024.

Ontario Pledges Support

Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, on Monday evening, assured the province’s support for the Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation. This includes the provision of culturally relevant mental health resources.

Minister Greg Rickford states,“The update from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation brings us one step closer to unlocking the collective truth of what happened at the former St. Mary’s Indian Residential School. We remain committed to supporting First Nations partners at Wauzhushk Onigum Nation as they continue their work to identify, investigate, and commemorate.

“As the Member of Provincial Parliament for Kenora Rainy-River and Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs, I stand with Wauzhushk Onigum Nation, as well as Treaty 3 partners. We understand that the result of second phase of this search brings up intergenerational trauma for many, but we also recognize that the work being done is pivotal as we strive to achieve meaningful reconciliation.

“We will continue to support the community of Wauzhusk Onigum in every way that we can. This includes culturally appropriate mental health supports, as partners continue this incredibly difficult work.”

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