‘Needles in haystacks’ search for remains at Delmas residential school

The remains of one child were found near the former site of a residential school in Delmas, Sask. Global Regina still

ground-penetrating radar search has expanded to include oral history to be completed by SNC-Lavalin and Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs Inc. (BATC) at the former site of a residential school near Delmas, Sask.

“We need to collect all the oral stories from First Nations people that were there,” BATC director Neil Sasakamoose said. “We also need to collect stories from non-First Nations people.”

Sasakamoose said the search is needles in haystacks and adds that the best information on the Delmas residential school is coming from non-Indigenous people. People have been approaching the team to inform them of what they remember. They are using every possible source they can find.

“We have been looking for kids. Our story right now is we don’t have any. We found one kid,” said Sasakamoose. “We haven’t been fortunate to add to the big list of the kids that were found.”

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BATC is looking after two residential schools: the St. Henri residential school near Delmas and the Battleford Industrial School. Sasakamoose says it’s a very difficult project as the search is hitting roadblocks.

The team has found remains of a 13-year-old boy who was located a mile away from the Delmas residential school. Sasakamoose said they believe the boy died in 1910.

“Someone put a marker on his (grave),” said Sasakamoose. “He’s our only identifying (child) right now.”

Sasakamoose said children who attended this residential school were moved several times. The team is stretching its location search by going back into history.

“In Delmas, we don’t have a location anymore. There is no location where children are apparently laid to rest,” he said. “We are mapping it now. We are going through all of the school records … to verify the reported deaths.”

The search team is also looking into how accurate the reported deaths are and will be going through the registry of every child who attended the Delmas residential school and the Battleford Industrial School.

“We are trying to find where they ended up,” he said. “We are trying to find every person on that list and see where they ended up in life … and if there are any records of them past residential school.”

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When the team gathers all the stories, they will be documenting what they find and will put the findings in a report to determine what happened to the children at the two schools. The search is a three-year project and has been funded by the federal government. The distance between Delmas residential school and the Battleford Industrial School is over 35 kilometres.

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.

Click to play video: 'Search for remains begins at Delmas residential school site'
Search for remains begins at Delmas residential school site


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