‘Part of the legacy’: Indigenous leaders in Edmonton push for action and remembrance

EDMONTON — Indigenous leaders in Edmonton are mourning the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a Kamloops residential school but are resounding in their cry for more to be done.

Edmonton-based archaeologist Kisha Supernant has used the same technology that found the mass grave site in Kamloops to locate other gravesites across Canada.

Supernant, director of the University of Alberta’s Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, is Métis and a descendant of the Papaschase First Nation.

“I don’t think we or most Canadians fully understand the scale of loss, associated with the residential school system,” Supernant said.

She said the discovery of remains at the Kamloops site does not surprise her as similar mass graves have been found at other residential schools.

Canadians must recognize that there is a deeper history to the land beneath their feet, Supernant said.

“There are probably many more unmarked burial locations throughout Alberta,” Supernant said. “Certainly around residential schools, but there are other contexts as well (like) historic cemeteries that don’t have graves marked anymore.

‘LET’S HAVE ACTION’: SURVIVOR TURNED ADVOCATE SAYS MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE

Marilyn Buffalo, a residential school survivor – whose parents are survivors as well – said she too was not surprised about the mass grave site found outside the Kamloops residential school.

“This was an open wound for Canada,” Buffalo said. “This is a very, very sad day for Canada and all its peoples. Not just my people, but for every Canadian.”

Buffalo is the CEO of the Nechi Institute that helps people struggling with addiction.

She says the legacy of residential schools is everywhere.

“We don’t have the resources to be able to restore the damages that have been done by the residential school era,” she said. “Our people are suffering.”

For Buffalo, there needs to be accountability and political will to confront the past. She believes there needs to be a national strategy to confront the damages of residential schools, as well as federal and provincial funding to support organizations like the Nechi Institute.

“What we need is healing, by that I mean action. Not empty words.”

Buffalo said it is time for the federal government to create a national investigation into residential schools so that their impact and all the lives lost can be properly accounted for.

“There are still people laying in unmarked graves,” Buffalo added.

“What has happened here is a crime,” she said. “It is a national crime and a national shame.” 

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866-925-4419.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Touria Izri

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