Sagkeeng First Nation searching former residential school site

Click to play video: 'Sagkeeng First Nation searching former residential school site' Sagkeeng First Nation searching former residential school site
The search continues on Sagkeeng First Nation for unmarked burial sites at a former residential school. Global’s Joe Scarpelli has an update.

Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation is undergoing a search process at the site of the former Fort Alexander Residential School.

Between 1905 and 1970, children from 21 communities were sent to the residential school, and Sagkeeng Chief Derrick Henderson told 680 CJOB there have long been stories from residential school survivors about missing children.

Recent discoveries of unmarked graves at similar residential schools across Canada spurred the community to take action and conduct a search using ground-penetrating radar.

“We’ve had meetings in our community in the last while, since we heard about what happened in Kamloops with the 215 graves that were found there,” Henderson told 680 CJOB.

Read more: Trudeau says he would support a criminal investigation into residential schools  

“That triggered our community…. We know through the residential school hearings and the Truth and Reconciliation report that a lot of our elders had spoken and said there were children that weren’t found or went missing. Some of them were friends of theirs.

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“They did tell these stories, but they weren’t believed. Now that we’re seeing what is happening with these (other) residential schools, the truth is coming out.”

Henderson said as chief, he and his fellow council members have a responsibility to listen to the community’s knowledge keepers and do what they can to search the former residential school site — which includes the current location of the Sagkeeng First Nation band office.

“We did have one of the bigger residential schools in the area, so we need to do what is right and do the search — and whatever the results are, that’s what the results will be.”

The former Fort Alexander residential school. Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

Henderson said Sagkeeng has hired the AltoMaxx company, without government assistance, to use a drone and ground-penetrating radar to conduct the search.

“We’re not going to wait for the governments of the day to provide this funding. I know they’ve made announcements federally and provincially, but we’re doing it our way.”

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Sagkeeng resident David Henderson is bracing for the results.

Read more: Plans in the works for memorial at former Winnipeg residential school

He’s spent the last decade supporting hundreds of survivors and says many of the stories he’s heard include missing children.

“I’ve heard from the residential school survivors many horrific stories of what has taken place here,” he said Thursday.

“Life was given to us by Creator and these children had been disrespected for what they had to endure at the time of their deaths and now that they’re lost, it is incumbent on us to to find them and to properly give them a way to be recognized.”

Click to play video: 'Residential schools legacy and calls for change' Residential schools legacy and calls for change
Residential schools legacy and calls for change – Jun 25, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he would support a criminal investigation into residential schools.

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“I will support anything that families need to move forward, for Canadians to understand the truth and to actually move forward on reconciliation,” Trudeau told Global News.

“We’ve known about (residential schools) for generations and Indigenous Peoples have known about them for generations.

Read more: Military forensic team could help identify residential school remains: officials

 “We have to remember that reconciliation is not about us deciding what the right thing is for Indigenous communities. It’s putting Indigenous communities, survivors, family members at the heart of it.”

Chief Henderson said he will get the results of the search after it is expected to wrap up Friday. There was no word on when he’ll share the results with the public.

–With files from Joe Scarpelli

Click to play video: 'Minister apologizes for residential school comments' Minister apologizes for residential school comments
Minister apologizes for residential school comments – Jul 16, 2021

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

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