Tribute items, from kids’ shoes to toys, used to sit on the front steps of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in commemoration of the unmarked graves found near Canada’s residential schools. On Friday morning, these items were removed to be blessed and will be donated.
Elders will guide the Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services (RT/SIS) to determine what will be done with the items. Out of respect for traditional practices, the tribute items were gathered as part of a private, traditional ceremony that will see them honoured off-site.
The tribute first began when the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered on the former Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds by a private firm using ground-penetrating radar in May. On June 24, Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of 751 graves near the Marieval Indian Residential School.
People gathered in front of the legislative building to commemorate the lives lost at residential schools.
“These tribute items represent all those who have been devastated by the findings of unmarked gravesites at residential schools,” First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Minister Don McMorris stated in a media release. “As we acknowledge the victims of Residential Schools, we want to ensure the tributes are handled respectfully and will be working with Elders and the Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services on a process for all items moving forward.”
The provincial government announced funding of $2 million for research into further residential school locations in Saskatchewan. Currently, there are a few communities that are performing ground-penetrating radar searches near the grounds of residential schools to search for unmarked graves.
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.