Dozens of students who died while attending residential schools near Flin Flon were part of a mass remembrance in Gatineau, Que. Sept. 30. A 50-metre long bright red banner contained the names of Indigenous children from across Canada. Of the 2,800 names of dead children listed, nearly 50 belonged to students who died in the area.
The Sturgeon Landing Residential School operated from 1926-1952. Over those 26 years, the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission (NTRC) found at least 43 students died while attending the school.
“The register lists children who died while attending a Residential School,” the memorial website reads.
“It includes the names of children who became ill at a Residential School and sent to an ‘Indian hospital’ or other kind of medical facility where they passed away. In some cases, children who were gravely ill or injured were sent home where they passed away. These names are also included in the site.”
The Sturgeon Landing school was less than 100 kilometres south Flin Flon, near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan provincial border. The NTRC website says the school saw outbreaks of illness during its time in operation.
In 1952, the school in Sturgeon Landing was destroyed in a fire. Students temporarily sent to The Pas for a year before a new school, the Guy Hill Residential School, was built in Clearwater Lake. The new school was open until 1979. Three students died while attending Guy Hill.
Every name discovered by the NTRC is available on the website memorial.nctr.ca. The commission estimated there are at least 1,600 dead children unaccounted for due to poor record keeping.
“There remains an extensive amount of work to be done to find all the children that never returned home and their burial sites,” the website reads.
“We are ready to receive additional information on any student believed or known to have gone missing at a Residential School or as a result of their time at a Residential School. We will continue to update the memorial register with additional names.”
Any additional information can be given to the commission by telephone, 1-855-415-4534, or email, email@example.com.
“There are literally millions more records to review and collect,” the website reads.
“In addition, children were often given a name in French or English when they were brought into the school. Sometimes their family names were westernized and misspelt by administrators in the schools. These western names were used inconsistently, misspelled in correspondence and reports, and even randomly changed over the course of time. There are examples of children with over 15 different forms of a name in the school records. The complexity of the historical record remains a significant challenge in this work of remembering and honouring.”
The memorial website and ceremonies are part of the NTRC’s 94 Calls to Action released in 2015.
“This memorial register lays the foundation for additional NTRC Calls to Action to be realized,” their website reads.
“There are as many as 400 burial sites across the country based on current estimates. The important work of locating and identifying unmarked burial locations across the country and creating monuments to remember the children lost are called for in the NTRC calls. Research and community engagement work to further document the names of children that died while attending the schools is ongoing. Locating and identifying unmarked gravesites are the next phases of the project as is the ongoing collection of information from coroners’ offices, provinces, municipalities, churches and federal government sources.”
The commission has also set up a National Residential School Crisis Line. The number, 1-866-925-4419, is open 24 hours per day.
The names of the students who died while attending the Sturgeon Landing Residential School are as follows:
Flora Jane Tawapisim
Mary Ann Job
Maryann Many Fingers
Nelson Peter Spence
The names of the students who died while attending the Guy Hill Residential School Students are as follows:
Helen Betty Osborne