54 Possible Unmarked Graves Have Been Discovered By Keeseekoose First Nation In Saskatchewan

"It’s a very solemn day."

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54 Possible Unmarked Graves Have Been Discovered By Keeseekoose First Nation In Saskatchewan

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As many as 54 possible unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds of two former residential schools by Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan.

Ground-penetrating radar was used at both the former sites of St. Philip's and Fort Pelly Residential Schools, leading to these potential discoveries outside of Kamsack, Saskatchewan, says Global News.

A total of 54 ground disturbances, believed to be unmarked graves, were detected during the radar search on Tuesday, February 15.

"It’s a very solemn day, but at the same time, it gives us closure, and it also opens up the door for more questions, what happened? What really happened?" said Chief Lee Kitchemonia of the Keeseekoose First Nation.

"'It’s going to be a very tough time for our community knowing that we have unmarked graves in our community."

Chief Kitchemonia added that bad weather impacted the search, so the total findings may not be finalized, per CTV News.

St. Philip's Residential school, which operated from 1928 to 1969, was found to have 12 potential unmarked graves by the technology. Fort Pelly, which operated from 1905 to 1913, may have 42 unmarked graves.

Both residential schools were run by the Catholic Church, Global News reports.

"Ground-penetrating radar simply validated our oral history," said the search's project manager and former Chief of Keeseekoose First Nation, Ted Quewezance.

"Every announcement of residential schools, residential grave sites re-traumatizes us survivors and our families and our communities," continued Quewezance.

In light of the possible discovery, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement describing the situation as "profoundly heartbreaking."

"There are no words that can convey the pain, trauma, and many other emotions that are felt in moments like this," said Trudeau. "It is by telling the truth that we will honour and lift up the memory of those who never came home from these so-called schools."

Keeseekoose First Nation is located around 286 kilometres northeast of Regina, close to the border between Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

This follows several similar discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Manitoba in the summer of 2021.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line is available across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-925-4419.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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