Ground radar searches requested for Sask. residential schools, including Sturgeon Landing

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is seeking to have ground radar searches done at several Saskatchewan residential schools, including one near Flin Flon.

Saskatchewan’s largest Indigenous group made a call for searches May 30 after similar searches found unmarked graves at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. in late May. A total of 215 dead children were found buried on the school site by radar surveying.

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In their May 30 statement, the FSIN specifically mentioned four residential schools by name in a media statement - including the Sturgeon Landing Residential School, located about 55 kilometres due south of Flin Flon.

“We’ve all heard the stories and atrocities that were part of the residential school experience. Some of us are survivors and have lived to tell our stories. However, there are many that did not make it home in Saskatchewan,” reads the FSIN statement.

The FSIN specifically mentioned the Sturgeon Landing school and the Muskowekwan, Onion Lake St. Anthony’s and Beauval schools as “potential sites of mass graves.”

“We are asking all survivors to tell their stories - we will work together to find closure. We will be seeking the ground radar search device to be used here in Saskatchewan,” reads the FSIN statement, which also mentioned the group plans to acquire ground radar and heavy equipment and create a plan for how it will be used.

According to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, at least 43 children are confirmed to have died at the Sturgeon Landing school from 1926-1952, when the school burned down. After the fire, a new residential school, the Guy Hill school, was opened at Clearwater Lake north of The Pas - that school operated until 1979. Both schools were operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

The Canadian residential school system was a state-sanctioned and government-funded network of boarding schools operated from the late 1800s until 1996. At these schools, Indigenous children were brought to be assimilated into European-Canadian culture - in the words of one organizer, “to kill the Indian in the child.” Around 150,000 Indigenous children were subjected to residential schools. Reports of physical, sexual and emotional abuse are common among survivors and thousands of children - estimates range from 3,200 to over 6,000 - died at the schools.

Since the FSIN statement, Saskatchewan's provincial government has also called for ground radar surveys at residential school sites - but is calling for the federal government to do them, rather than facilitiating that provincially.

"Saskatchewan is supporting the call from the FSIN and FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron for the federal government to take immediate action following the tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School," Premier Scott Moe said in a news release.

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