Former Residential School in Fort Chipewyan to be searched for burial and grave sites

The leadership of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN), and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association (FCMA) are partnering together to start the on-site process of identifying burial and grave sites in relation to the Holy Angels Residential School.

Set to begin March 31, 2022, ACFN Chief Allan Adam said in a press release that while the ACFN have known about the terrible tragedies that occurred in the community, it is only in recent months that they’ve received provincial and federal support to move forward in a meaningful way.

“The findings across Canada of unmarked, previously unidentified, and horrifying mass burials of children who attended residential school shocked many Canadians, but they did not shock Indigenous people,” said ACFN Chief Allan Adam.

MCFN Chief Peter Powder adds that the first step towards reconciliation is the truth.

“The work in Fort Chipewyan, which will include collecting testimonials from Elders, aerial photography, ground-penetrating radar, and other methods, is critical to uncovering the truth about Holy Angels Residential School.”

In the same press release, FCMA President Kendrick Cardinal noted that this journey will be painful for many in the community.

“In consultation with Elders and our community, we believe that seeking the truth about residential schools is a necessary step in addressing the intergenerational trauma that the residential school experience has created for so many Indigenous people.”

Chief Adam states that they want to ensure that any child buried in this manner at the Holy Angels Residential School site is given the dignity, respect, and love that every child deserves.

“We want to ensure they are never forgotten in the way that Canada forgot about them for decades.”

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has confirmed 89 deaths of children who attended the school between 1880 and 1953.

The Holy Angels Residential School was located in Fort Chipewyan and operated from 1874 to 1974, with the old school site now located on the Mikisew Cree First Nation reserve.

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