Please note: This story contains reference to people who have died.

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba, Canada is working to identify the remains of 104 children which were found on the site of the former Brandon Indian Residential School.

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is working with University of Windsor and Simon Fraser University researchers to identify the bodies of children who were buried at the school which operated between 1895 and 1972.

The remains of children were found in 2012, with three cemeteries found with numerous unmarked graves. The team are identifying the remains through both commemoration and repatriation.

Brandon Indian Residential School. Photo supplied.

The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is reflecting on their own healing journey and are sending warmth to their First Nations family in the wake of the discovery of remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

Chief Jennifer Bone of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation said her community “empathises and understands the collective pain and sorrow that the forced Indian residential schools inflicted upon our Nations”.

“The news has triggered raw emotions of sadness and grief in all of us,” she said.

The Brandon Indian Residential School was demolished in 2000, ending a history that saw the forced removal of First Nations children.

Through funding for the Social Sciences and Humanities Council Partnership Development Grant, the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is continuing investigations with their university partners.

“Our investigation has identified 104 potential graves in all three cemeteries and that only 78 are accountable through cemetery records,” said Chief Bone.

“Work is moving forward to identify affected communities with children that may be buried in these cemeteries. We want to create safe spaces for families and communities to decide on appropriate ways to honour our children and to support them in meaningful ways.”

The Chief called on the Canadian Government to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action with particular reference to:

  • Missing children and burial information
  • Funding long-term community health and trauma support
  • Funding long-term community-based research across Canada
  • Developing a public cemetery database and registry
  • Enacting legislation to protect all residential school cemeteries.

“We must honour the memory of the children that never made it home by holding the Government of Canada, Churches and all responsible parties accountable for their inhumane actions,” Chief Bone said.

“There is more work to be done to bring truth to the atrocities inflicted on the children who were our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And those children who never became parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.”

“The families and communities whose children were lost whilst attending these schools have questions that deserve answers. The children buried at these sites must have their identities restored and their stories told. They will never be forgotten.

“Every child matters.”

By Rachael Knowles