$8 million for research in undocumented deaths and burials at residential schools

·2 min read

The province has announced it is putting $8 million forward for indigenous groups to research undocumented deaths and burials in Alberta residential schools.

The announcement came on June 21; the next day, it would be announced that 751 unmarked graves were found in Cowessess First Nation, about 160 kilometres east of Regina, at a former residential school site.

Previously 215 unmarked graves were found at a former residential school in Kamloops, and the numbers continue to rise as the search continues across the country.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission says that at least 3,213 children are reported to have died while in residential schools.

Grant funding will be available to indigenous communities and organizations with a maximum of $150,000 per individual application.

The grant can be used for:

•community-driven research by gathering the oral histories and knowledge of elders

•community engagement on how they wish to proceed with a burial site

•use of ground-penetrating radar and other technology to explore potential unmarked burial sites

•partner with experts in locating human burials

•maintenance and commemorative work, such as the installation of grave markers, memorials or commemoration events

“Today’s announcement of the community research grant is a much-needed step as part of the reconciliation process regarding the legacy of residential schools in Alberta,” said Chief Marlene Poitras, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations Alberta Association.

“Through this grant, families will be able to research grave burial sites and gain closure as part of their grieving processes.

“While there is still much work ahead, this is a positive step forward, and I commend the actions taken today.”

Locally just east of the South Peace, the St. Francis Xavier Residential School operated from 1890 to 1961 along the south shore of Sturgeon Lake, according to the CBC’s interactive residential school map.

The province said that more residential schools operated in Alberta than in any other province, about 25 between 1872 and 1975.

The application for the grant is now available and will be accepted until Jan. 15, 2022.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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