Algoma University, located on former Ontario residential school site, to probe for possible burial spots

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

Algoma University officials in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., say they will plan a search of the institution’s grounds, which are located on the former site of the Shingwauk Indian Residential School, in light of the news about a former B.C. residential school.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said last Thursday that preliminary findings from a survey of the grounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School uncovered the remains of about 215 children.

A statement from the First Nation said the missing children, some as young as three years old, were undocumented deaths.

“In light of what we have learned through the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc announcement at the Kamloops Residential School, we are taking every measure, including the use of technology available to us today, to address the potential that there may be burial sites outside the marked gravesites in the Shingwauk Cemetery,” the university says in a release.

“It is incumbent upon us to do this work, alongside others who oversee portions of the Shingwauk site, and we will continue to move forward in a culturally respectful and responsible way.”

Dozens buried on university grounds

The interim director of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre says it’s known 109 people were buried on the university grounds, including 72 former residential school students — but there could well be more.

“Working with the children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, survivors have said, for example, they remember the burial of children outside the bounds of the cemetery,” said Krista McCracken.

She said while the news out of Kamloops is horrific and overwhelming, it validates what survivors of residential schools have been saying for years.

Algoma officials say they recently worked with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association to create an updated register that lists the names of each person buried within the cemetery.

“Given our current home and its history, Algoma University takes its responsibility to former students of both the Shingwauk and Wawanosh Residential Schools and their families very seriously,” the statement read.

“We continue to be guided in our work by our partners and our spiritual advisor to ensure that our work is done in a good way, building upon the tremendous work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association and the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre staff.”

Read the entire release here.

Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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