Youngsters raise money for monument at site of old Indian Industrial School

Youngsters from a Regina school held a carnival Wednesday night to raise money to support a monument to remember children who attended the Regina Indian Industrial School.

School holds carnival Wednesday night

There were fun games at the carnival held at George Lee Elementary School in Regina. (CBC)

A Regina school held a carnival Wednesday night to raise money to support a monument to remember children who attended the Regina Indian Industrial School.

A nearly-forgotten cemetery on the former grounds of the school was recently given heritage protection.

It's believed there may be as many as 40 children in unmarked graves at the site, on Regina's west edge.

The Regina Indian Industrial School operated between 1891 and 1910. It was then converted to a municipal jail and, later, it was used as a home for delinquent youths. It burned down in 1948.

I hope it becomes a site of reconciliation.- Shelly Reed

The school, which had a residential component, was first operated by the Foreign Missionary Committee of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, under a contract with the federal Department of Indian Affairs.

According to historians, the school was one of many efforts by officials of the day to encourage assimilation of First Nations people.

The fate of the cemetery has been followed by a Grade 7 class at George Lee School where students learned more about the history of the school.

Shelly Reed, Grade 7 teacher and vice principal at George Lee School in Regina. (CBC)

"Most people in Regina have never even heard of it," Shelly Reed, a teacher and vice principal at George Lee Elementary, said. "It really bothered me — not only as a teacher, but as a mom — that there were these children buried out at this site and there were no grave markers to even indicate it was a cemetery."

The students have been working with the Regina Indian Industrial School Commemorative Association to preserve the memory of the newly-designated heritage site.

One of Reed's students, Grace Adam, said the experience of youngsters more than a century ago is troubling.

"Imagine what they went through," Adam, who is in Grade 7, said. "It's so important that people keep learning about it ... you can't forget the past."

Grade 7 student Grace Adam has been learning about the Regina Indian Industrial School. (CBC)

Reed said the students would like to see a monument engraved with the names of all the students who attended the school at the site.

"I hope it becomes a site of reconciliation," said Reed. "Reconciliation for our First Nations people who are hurting after all the years of what went on at the residential schools [and] a place where all Canadians, all Saskatchewan people, all Regina people can come to and recognize what happened in the past and help people move forward in a way that's together and not apart."

The carnival night fundraiser included a raffle, various games, a haunted house and an obstacle course.

The gym at George Lee Elementary School was packed with people for a carnival fundraiser. Students want a memorial set at the site of the old Regina Indian Industrial School. (CBC)