Manitoba

Norway House Cree Nation to begin search for unmarked graves near former residential schools

An Indigenous community in northern Manitoba is set to begin its search for any unmarked graves on the grounds of two former residential school sites.

Sacred fire lit on Sunday will burn until search begins at northern Manitoba sites Thursday

The former Norway House Indian Residential School is one of two sites that will be searched for potential unmarked graves starting Thursday. (Submitted by Dr. Verna Kirkness)

An Indigenous community in northern Manitoba is set to begin its search for any unmarked graves on the grounds of two former residential school sites.

Norway House Cree Nation is working with engineering firm Stantec to conduct the search.

Chief Larson Anderson says in a release that it is necessary to proceed with the project so the residential school survivors and their families can move on in their healing journeys.

The community had two residential schools — one run by the Methodist Missionary Society of Canada and one by the Roman Catholic Mission.

A sacred fire was lit Sunday on the First Nation and is to remain lit until the ground search begins Thursday.

David Swanson, a councillor in Norway House, says the community has been waiting in anticipation for its search to start since the spring of 2021, when what are believed to be more than 200 unmarked graves were found at a former school site in Kamloops, B.C.

The search at Norway House is scheduled to begin with a traditional ceremony including a blessing of the land.

Leadership in the community are to present the scope of the work with timelines and answer questions from members.

Counsellors from the community's health division will be on hand to help anyone who may be affected by the search.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation says the Methodist Missionary Society began operating the Rossville School in 1899. The building burned down in 1913 and a replacement school was opened the following year.

A young boy was badly frozen and lost several toes when he ran away from the school in the winter of 1907 because of physical abuse, the centre has documented.

More than three decades later, the school burned down again. It was replaced in 1954.

The residence was converted to a day school in 1967, when the property was transferred to the provincial government.

The centre has documented 13 students who died while being forced to attend the school.

The second school was originally known as Jack River Annex and was funded as part of the Cross Lake School. It was run by the Roman Catholic Mission at Norway House.

The facility was directly funded in 1960 and became known as the Notre Dame Hostel until 1967, when the community signed an agreement with the Frontier School Division for operation of the school.

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