Feds provide $326,000 to search for unmarked graves at Shubenacadie residential school site – Ku’ku’kwes News

Dorene Bernard, residential school survivor and Mi’kmaq elder, speaks during a press conference at Indian Brook First Nation, Nova Scotia, April 20, 2022. Photo by Stephen Brake

The federal government is providing $326,700 for a project to search for unmarked graves of Indigenous children who died while attending the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Nova Scotia.

The funding, which will be administered by the Sipekne’katik First Nation, will support ongoing fieldwork at the site, additional research and interviews with residential school survivors in the Maritime provinces.

“I want people to know that residential schools weren’t a hundred years ago,” Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack said at a press conference in Indian Brook First Nation on May 20. april.

“We are still dealing with the effects (of the residential school system) in our community on a daily basis,” he said in his opening remarks.

Chief Sack said the funding to excavate the old school grounds is “just the tip of the iceberg” of what survivors and their families need to heal.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller receives an eagle feather from Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack during a press conference at Indian Brook First Nation, Nova Scotia, on April 20, 2022. Photo by Stephen Brake

Marc Miller, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, joined Sipekne’katik Chief Mike Sack and Dorene Bernard, a Mi’kmaq elder and residential school survivor to announce the funding. Jaime Battiste, MP for Sydney-Victoria and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Kody Bloise, MP for Kings-Hants also attended the press conference.

“Today’s announcement, as Chief Sack made it very clear, is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Minister Miller.

“As we go through this journey of accompanying survivors and determining the next step to gain more information about what exactly happened at this facility,” he said.

Commemorative plaques for the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School National Historic Site were unveiled at the site of the former Indian Residential School on September 30, 2021/Photo by Stephen Brake

The Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, which was run by the Roman Catholic Church, was the only school of its kind in Atlantic Canada. Located in the village of Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, it operated from 1929 to 1967. More than 1,000 Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqkew children from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec attended the school.

“It is important that their voices are heard” – Dorene Bernard

According to Bernard, part of the funding will be used to interview residential school survivors and their families in the Maritimes to find out what happened to children who disappeared or died while attending school.

“It’s about reaching out to survivors because there’s so (a lot) of oral history passed down from generation to generation,” Bernard explained.

“It’s important that their voices are heard,” she said.

Bernard said information gathered from survivors and their families will be integrated with information provided by survivors to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Federal government provides $326,000 to help Sipekne’katik locate unmarked graves of children who died while attending Shubenacadie Indian Residential School/Photo by Stephen Brake

Money for the project is provided by the Community Support Funding Program for Residential School Children. The federal government has allocated more than $200 million over five years to help Indigenous communities locate unmarked graves at other former residential school sites across the country.

Minister Miller said the federal government is currently funding 70 similar projects across the country.

In 2021, several First Nations communities in Western Canada discovered more than a thousand unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools. The graves are believed to be those of Aboriginal children who died while attending church-run schools.

In the summer of 2021, Sipekne’katik First Nation partnered with Saint Mary’s University to scan the former grounds of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School for possible human remains using electromagnetic induction and ground penetrating radar.

According to Chief Sack, over 70% of the land was scanned at the time. No unmarked graves have been detected, he said.

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