Statement Regarding the Blue Quills First Nation Research Findings at the Site of the Former Sacred Heart Residential School

January 25, 2024, The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (the Centre) shares in deep sadness about the disclosure of a communal grave at the former site of the Sacred Heart Residential School in Blue Quills First Nation.

On January 24, Leah Redcrow, CEO of Acimowin Opaspiw Society along with leaders from Saddle Lake Cree Nation and archeologists and geologists announced confirmation of child skeletal remains at the former Residential School, in Alberta.

The Centre supports Blue Quills First Nation their members, community, Survivors of the Sacred Heart Residential School and their family members in identifying and returning those who did not make it home back to their families.

“When I use the terminology, “Mass grave”, I refer to one large communal pit with multiple bodies inside of it, that have been determined to be former students of the Sacred Heart (Blue Quills) Indian Residential School,” wrote Redcrow in a press release.   

At the press conference, Redcrow shared they plan to identify and return the found skeletal remains to their family members and requested the help of the RCMP and Alberta Chief Medical officer. However, they have had little support from either according to APTN.

Repeated accidental findings have happened over the years due to the communal grave being close to the community’s cemetery. All findings have been prayed over with tobacco and reburied.

“Acimowin Opaspiw Society is holding engagement meetings for descendants of Blue Quills survivors throughout the province in February and March. They said they hope to hear stories from family members of survivors who attended the school between 1898 and 1931 to uncover more information ahead of the excavation,” according to a CBC Indigenous article.

Research and investigation at the site of the former Residential School have been underway since 2020 after an accidental finding in 2004 by Jason Whiskeyjack, an Acimowin Opaspiw Society board member.

The Centre wishes to acknowledge the impacts that ongoing searches have on all Indigenous peoples and communities, and to encourage Survivors and community members to seek the care they need through this challenging time. The Indian Residential School Survivor Support Society has established a 24-hour Crisis Line for former students and their families: 1-866-925-4419. Find additional wellness resources and supports.