More than 30 former residential school students from Gordon First Nation near Punnichy north of Regina are struggling to have their federal compensation claims recognized.

Under Ottawa's $1.2-billion Common Experience program, each student who attended a residential school is entitled to $10,000, plus $3,000 for each year they attended. The schools, now closed, were typically run by churches under the supervision of Ottawa.

The group at Gordon had their claims rejected, they say, because the government says it can't find their files.

Among those who had their claims rejected is Ivan McNab, a well-known aboriginal broadcaster, now retired, who says he attended the residential school at Gordon for about eight years in the 1940s and '50s.

"For some reason or other there is no record of me being in school," said McNab, 69. "They found records of me being in day school, which I'm not disputing that at all, because I was there. But I was also in residence and this is where the dispute seems to be."

McNab said he and the other former students will now look for other people who can write letters in support of their claim.

The group has until 2011 to get their claims recognized.

According to the federal government, about 14,000 people across Canada have had their initial claims rejected.

Some people on Gordon First Nation have received their money, but others haven't.

Couple 'trying to forget'

Alice Pratt received her payment but her husband's application was rejected. They're not happy about having to fight Ottawa over the issue.

"We're trying to forget," said Alice Pratt. "We were all treated badly … told not to talk out loud at the meal time and if you didn't learn, they'd slap you or something."

Over the past 15 years, some 13,000 former students from reserves across Canada have launched claims alleging they had been physically or sexually abused or that they suffered a loss of language or culture. 

In addition to the Common Experience funds, Ottawa has also put aside money to compensate those people who suffered more serious forms of abuse. There's also money for lawyers, memorial programs and for truth and concilliation hearings.

In total, Ottawa expects to spend $4 billion to $5 billion.