Statement on the Findings of unmarked burials by the Keeseekoose First Nation

The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre expresses its support and condolences to the Keeseekoose First Nation, and all Nations whose members attended the St. Philip’s and Fort Pelly residential schools, as the discovery of 54 unmarked burials are announced.

The Keeseekoose First Nation is leading the search at the two former schools, both located in Saskatchewan. The search team used ground penetrating radar (GPR), which has to date identified 42 potential graves at the former Fort Pelly Indian Residential School and 12 at the former St. Philips Indian Residential School. The search was limited due to winter weather and will continue once conditions allow.

“Our hearts are with Chief Kitchimonia, the Survivors of these two schools and their families, and the entire Keeseekoose Nation,” says Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Academic Director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. “We support the Nation’s call for accountability, and advocate strongly for their right to see all the records from the schools. The families of former students deserve to have a full understanding of what happened at the schools; it’s the only way for the community to have some form of closure and healing.”

The schools were both operated by the Missionary of Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Catholic entity that operated 48 residential schools in Canada, including the former Marieval and Kamloops Indian Residential Schools, where unmarked graves were found in recent months. In addition to continuing the search using GPR, the Keeseekoose Nation will work with the local parish and archdiocese to obtain records they have related to the schools.

Former residential school students seeking wellness support can call the national, toll-free 24-hour crisis line at 1-866-925-4419. Additional wellness supports and resources can be found here.

More information:

Keeseekoose First Nation in Sask. announces 54 ‘hits’ in ground-penetrating radar surveys at former schools CBC, February 15, 2022
Keeseekoose First Nation says 54 potential graves at former Saskatchewan residential schools APTN, February 15, 2022

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