Leaders from the Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches have apologized in Saskatoon for their churches' role in the residential school system.
Part of a tour crossing Canada called Remembering the Children, the church leaders spoke Sunday at an emotional session attended by 400 people, many who attended the schools decades ago.
First Nations children were separated from their parents, their language, and their culture. In some cases, they were sexually and physically abused.
The schools were largely run by churches under the supervision of the federal government.
Among those working on making amends Sunday was Catholic Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie.
"As Archbishop of Keewatin The Pas, I am deeply sorry for our participation," said Lavoie, whose apology was followed by leaders from the other churches.
They talked about the schools run by their denominations and admitted it was a flawed, ultimately destructive, system for aboriginal people.
Among those in the crowd was former student Laura Wasacase, 68, who said later that she has heard many apologies over the years, but none as moving and sincere as the ones she heard on Sunday.
"I've been waiting how many years being in residential school, and enduring all this pain, but at the same time, I saw enlightenment today," she said.
David Guiliano, the moderator of the United Church of Canada, said it's their way of taking responsibility for their role — a move some people say is long overdue.
"Every time I go into a First Nations community, I present these apologies and offer them on behalf of the church," he said. "It's this incredibly moving experience and people say to me, 'Why didn't we hear this before?'"
The church officials will speak at a similar event Monday in Winnipeg, the final leg of their tour.