Universities across Canada are working with Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation near Brandon, Man., to identify the names of more than 100 children buried at a residential school in the community.
A group led by Eldon Yellowhorn, an indigenous studies professor at Simon Fraser University, aims to identify the students through commemoration and repatriation.
The research team plans on using archival research and new technology to identify the bodies.
Yellowhorn said the new techniques they’ll use could include ground-penetrating radar, soil electrical conductivity, aerial drone survey, and even fire — “a controlled burn to help clear off the vegetation to get a better view of the things.”
With the help of research teams at SFU, Brandon University and the University of Windsor, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is continuing a search for new information, which began back in 2012.
“Our investigation has identified 104 potential graves in all three cemeteries and that only 78 are accountable through cemetery and burial records,” said Jennifer Bone, Chief of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, in a video posted on YouTube on June 1.
Last year was supposed to mark the first year of fieldwork regarding the unmarked graves, but Yellowhorn says the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the process considerably.
“Because we’re still dealing with unidentified human remains, we can take the next step of using DNA, taking DNA samples, getting a profile of the individual and then hopefully matches it to relatives.”
He says he hopes to begin the next stage of the investigation as soon as possible.
“We’re just in a holding pattern right now. We really are poised to go but we just have to wait until COVID leaves the province.”
The Brandon residential school was in operation from 1895 to 1972 and was demolished in 2000.