Alberta's Kapawe'no First Nation Reports 169 'Potential Graves' At A Former Residential School

Radar and drones have been used to identify areas of interest.

Calgary Staff Writer
St. Bernard's Mission Residential School in Grouard, Alberta.

St. Bernards Mission Residential School in Grouard, Alberta.

The Kapawe'no First Nation says up to 169 "potential graves" have been found using ground-penetrating radar technology at the site of a former residential school in Alberta.

A team from the University of Alberta conducted radar work around the site of St. Bernard's Mission residential school at Grouard, Alberta, at the request of Kapawe'no First Nation, says a summary published on the findings of the search.

The residential school, which is around 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton, was opened by the Roman Catholic church in 1894 and closed in 1961.

A nearly one-acre area was examined as part of the first phase of investigations at the former school.

Drones were also used to collect images over the community cemetery and in the field to the south of the cemetery to identify "areas of interest."

The report, done by the university's Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archeology, outlines the difference between "possible" (lower probability), "probable" (moderate probability), and "likely" (higher probability) graves that have been identified. "Potential graves" is used as an umbrella term for all of these.

The report says that a total of 8 likely graves, 129 probable graves and 32 possible graves were identified on the property in this Phase One search, for a total of 169 potential graves.

A table showing the findings from St. Bernard's Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta.A table showing the findings from St. Bernard's Mission residential school in Grouard, Alberta.Kapawe'no First Nation

So far, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has records of 10 student deaths at the school.

"This summary provides an overview of the results of what is the beginning of a long journey to find answers to what happened to the children who never came home from the residential school at St. Bernard's Mission," the report says.

"Every child matters and there remains a lack of justice and accountability for what happened. The results of Phase 1 indicate there is more work to be done to find those answers."

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.

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