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Ground-penetrating radar survey done this week at former Red Deer residential school site

Whether or when to release survey results is up to the nine impacted First Nations
Students and staff at the Red Deer Indian Industrial School in 1907. (Photo contributed by Red Deer Archives)

Ground-penetrating radar equipment was used to scan the graveyard at the former Red Deer Indian Industrial School site on Tuesday.

Results of this survey, undertaken to find unmarked graves at the former residential school are expected to be known in up to two months. They will then be turned over to the nine Indigenous communities that had children taken to the historic school that operated between 1893 and 1919.

It will be up to these nine First Nations — located from Northern Manitoba to the Northwest Territories and including Alberta’s Maskwacis bands — to determine whether, or when, to make the report public, said Adrienne South, press secretary for Alberta Indigenous Relations.

“Our thoughts remain with the families of all those impacted by the devastating discoveries of the unmarked grave sites across the country in the past year. Finding their graves is a matter of reconciliation and another step toward closure for families,” South added.


-Search for lost graves to be done this month

This week’s underground radar survey was conducted by expert Kisha Supernant, of the University of Alberta’s Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology.

Funding to cover the $330,000 cost was provided by the provincial government’s Heritage Preservation Partnership Program.

South said the Residential School Community Research Grant was launched to help Indigenous communities identify unmarked and often undocumented graves and properly commemorate them.

“A great deal of work has already been done to try to identify remains at or near residential schools. Some sites, like the Red Deer Industrial School, had investigations underway prior to the launch of the Residential School Community Research Grant,” said South.

See also:

-Red Deer residential school operated for 30 years

She was referring to a cursory 2008 survey that found 19 potential burial sites at the former school site, across the Red Deer River from Fort Normandeau. Lyle Keewatin Richards, a member of the Remembering the Children Society that worked for a decade to locate the graveyard, hopes advances in technology will provide more certainty with this latest survey.

As part of the $330,000, the Alberta government is providing $30,000 in funding to each of the Indigenous communities for ceremonial activities and engagement within their communities.

South said the Residential School Mental Health Support Grant Program was also made available to support residential school survivors and their families.

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Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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