THE BATTLEFORDS — A media release issued Friday afternoon says investigation into possible missing children and unmarked graves at the former Indian Residential School at Delmas has validated the oral history provided by elders.
“In a pivotal turn of events, oral elder testimony has been validated through the deployment of cadaver dogs specially trained to detect historic human remains,” states a release from Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs. “The investigation, conducted on October 17 and 18, 2023, provided crucial insights into the dark legacy of the Delmas Indian Residential School.”
The release refers to research findings by the Acahkos Awasisak - Star Children Project, which, since 2021, has been leading the research into missing children and unmarked graves at the former St. Henri-Thunderchild Indian Residential School at Delmas, (1901-1948).
Lead researcher Alayna Tootoosis confirmed to SASKTODAY.ca that the cadaver dogs did indicate the presence of human remains.
Elders were consulted about the findings, and they asked that a commemorative feast be held, and that has taken place, she said.
In the media release, Tootoosis emphasized the profound nature of the Acahkos Awasisak - Star Children Project undertaking,
"This research has been a project of the heart, addressing the concerns of our people. The findings are of a sensitive nature, but it is crucial to transparently present our discoveries."
The release states, “BATC Acahkos Awasisak - Star Children Project is committed to upholding the truth, acknowledging the painful history, and honoring the lives of those who suffered. As we move forward, BATC remains dedicated to fostering healing and understanding within our community.”
Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs in conjunction with SNC-Lavalin launched a ground-radar investigation of unmarked graves around the site of the former Delmas residential school in July 2021.
In February of 2022, the federal government announced funding of $2,783,554 over three years to go towards researching, documenting, and honouring the memory of those who attended both the Battleford Industrial School as well as the former St. Henri-Thunderchild Indian Residential School at Delmas.
The residential school at Delmas was run by Roman Catholic Church Oblate missionaries and was in operation from 1901 to 1948, when it was destroyed by a fire and never rebuilt, according to Shattering the Silence, a history of residential schools in Saskatchewan published by the University of Regina's faculty of education.