Regina Indian school cemetery may not get heritage protection
City should require owner to keep site 'neat and tidy', report says
- Committee puts off making recommendation for council
The owner should be required to cut the grass, but heritage status should not be sought for the cemetery of the former Regina Indian Industrial School, a City Hall report says.
The recommendation to not seek protective status for the site at 701 Pinkie Road is part of a report going to the city's municipal heritage committee on Monday.
At least 22 burial sites
In 2012, an engineering firm surveyed the 680-square-metre area on the western edge of the city and found there was a minimum of 22 grave sites and possibly 40.
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Buried in the cemetery are the bodies of children from First Nations and Métis communities, as well as the children of the school's first principal.
Since the engineering study came out, officials have been pondering whether to commemorate the site or provide heritage protection.
The administration report recommends doing neither.
Grass to be mowed at least once yearly
Instead, it says, the city should set maintenance standards for the site and then leave it up to the private owner to keep it "neat and tidy".
The proposed maintenance would include mowing the grass at least once a year.
The advantage of this approach is that the city would not have to take on any responsibility for the cemetery's upkeep, the report says. The downside is that the historical significance of the cemetery would not be formally recognized by Regina City Council.
The city shouldn't consider designating the cemetery as a municipal heritage property because it doesn't know the full extent of the burial area and its value to First Nation communities, the report says.
Officials concerned about costs
Commemorating the cemetery is also not recommended, city staff say, because it would cost money and would set a precedent.
"While commemoration of the lives of the deceased children buried in the cemetery is an important and respectful act, this is not something that should be led by the city," the report said.
"Due to the sensitivity of the situation, it should be led by those that were affected by the operation of the Regina Indian Industrial School, including the families of the deceased children."
Property has gone through many changes
The Regina Industrial School was in operation between 1891 and 1910 and was run by the Presbyterian Church under contract with the federal Department of Indian Affairs.
It was an era when the government had a policy of assimilating aboriginal people into mainstream society, the same policy that led to residential schools.
In 1911, after the school closed, the building was used as the city jail. In 1919, it became the boy's detention house.
The school was destroyed by fire in 1948 and later was replaced by the Paul Dojack Centre, which is located just to the east. The property has been in private hands since the 1980s.
Council to have final say
The municipal heritage committee could concur with the administration's recommendations or vote for something different.
During a meeting of the committee, Monday, committee members decided to delay sending a recommendation forward to council so that more information about the site could be obtained.
CBC News also spoke to Barry Kennedy, chief of Carry the Kettle First Nation who said First Nations should be involved in whatever decision is made about the site.
"We will protect the grave site," Kennedy added. "We will work cooperatively with any group but we will also defend that grave site."