Memorial stone to be unveiled in Red Deer on Thursday

Four Aboriginal children who died in a Red Deer residential school almost 100 years ago will be honoured with a stone memorial.

David Lightning, Georgina House, Sarah Soosay and Jane Baptiste were students at the Red Deer Industrial School, which had one of the highest mortality rates in Canada before closing in 1919.

During the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, the four died and were buried in the Red Deer Cemetery.

The children are believed to be from Samson Cree Nation, or perhaps from Paul Nation. Family members for only one of the four have been found.

The Remembering the Children Society will unveil the memorial stone on Thursday morning.

The event begins at the cemetery (3850 55 St.) at 9 a.m. with a pipe ceremony. At 10 a.m. a program will be held at the Roland Michener Recreation Centre and at 11 a.m. attendees will walk to the cemetery, led by hand drummers, where the monument will be unveiled.

“When I look at the tragic death of those children, especially considering I have children, I feel so sad and sorry for the circumstances they found themselves in,” said Muriel Stanley-Venne, Remember the Children Society vice-president.

Stanley-Venne praised Red Deer for its truth and reconciliation work.

“It’s quite remarkable how the city has reacted,” she said. “Red Deer held one of the truth and reconciliation conferences and it was amazing.”

It’s important to make sure people hear the story of these four children, she added.

“It’s very much a historical event that should be remembered … and it’s a sad story for Canadians to realize what happened, but we need to acknowledge the deaths,” she said

Funding for the stone memorial came from various churches, the Métis Nation and an Alberta government grant. The City of Red Deer waived the cemetery fee, Stanley-Venne said.

Stephen Kakfwi, president and CEO with Canadians for a New Partnership and former premier of Northwest Territories will be the keynote speaker at the unveiling ceremony.

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