WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
The federal government has announced it will provide Sipekne'katik First Nation in Nova Scotia with $326,700 to help ongoing research at the site of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.
The funding will support the knowledge-gathering, commemoration, memorialization and fieldwork the First Nation has already started on the grounds surrounding the former school.
The Shubenacadie school operated from 1929 to 1967. It was the only residential school in the Maritimes and took hundreds of Indigenous children from across the region away from their homes.
"I want people to know the residential school stuff was not hundreds of years ago," Chief Mike Sack said at the announcement in Sipekne'katik First Nation on Wednesday.
"We're still dealing with the effects of it daily and our community has a very hard time and a rough struggle."
The money is coming out of Ottawa's Residential School Children's-Community Support Funding Program that was created last year after hundreds of unmarked graves were found at the sites of former residential schools in Western Canada.
"It's important to mark these events with some level of humility and understanding that I stand on behalf of an entity that was part and parcel, along with religious institutions, in creating this system," said Marc Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
Sack said about 70 per cent of the ground at the Shubenacadie school site has been scanned by radar and there is still a lot more work to do. No evidence of unmarked graves connected to the residential school has been found.
Community Elder Doreen Bernard is a residential school survivor and has worked on residential school commemoration projects for the First Nation.
Bernard said the work will "benefit survivors, our families, our children and grandchildren through initiatives for commemoration, remembrance, honouring, education and healing."
She said it's critical researchers reach out to survivors and their family members across the region.
"There's a lot of oral history passed down through generations," Bernard said. "The input will not only be from the survivors from Indian Brook but throughout the Maritimes who have those stories and those histories they learned about the residential school. It's important that their voices are heard."
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
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