The following is a joint statement from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Cowessess First Nation:
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Executive sends sincere condolences and prayers to the community of Cowessess First Nation and the survivors and descendents of the Marieval Indian Residential School after the startling discovery of 751 unmarked graves near the former residential school.
“The Marieval Residential School gravesite was overseen by the Roman Catholic Church from 1886 to the 1970. During this time children who attended Marieval and passed were buried at this gravesite. In the 1960s the Catholic Church removed the headstones and today, we have over 600 unmarked graves” says Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme. “This is not a mass gravesite; it is unmarked graves. Our end goal is to locate, identify, and put a mark down honouring our loved ones.”
“Hundreds of First Nations children went to Marieval Indian Residential School and did not leave. Sadly, this is just the beginning. There will be hundreds more unmarked graves and burial sites located across our First Nations lands at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools” says FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “There are thousands of families across our Treaty territories that have been waiting for their children to come home. Saskatchewan had the highest number of residential schools and highest number of survivors. There will be hundreds more.”
“Our community is in mourning and our families are in pain. Every one of our Cowessess members, has a family member buried there. The pain we are feeling is real” says Chief Delorme. “Please respect the privacy of our families and community at this very trying time.”
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan. The Federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of the Treaties, as well as the promotion, protection and implementation of the Treaty promises that were made more than a century ago.