Saskatchewan

Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery commemorated 100 years after closure

The Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery has received a Provincial Heritage Property plaque in honour of the children buried there.

Plaque a step toward reconciliation: spokesperson

Janine Windolph says the land owner has been allowing people to leave flowers and teddy bears in honour of the children buried there. (CBC News)

The Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery has received a Provincial Heritage Property plaque in honour of the children buried there.

The provincial acknowledgement comes more than 100 years after the school closed its doors.

Speakers at the event included Regina Mayor Michael Fougere, MP and federal Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, and Dutch Lerat, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN).

Janine Windolph, a member of the school's commemorative association, said the plaque is a step toward reconciliation.

"I feel joy that we've come to this step, and that the work still continues on on the commemorative," Windolph said.

Windolph says the Provincial Heritage Property plaque unveiled on Tuesday is a good start to a collective healing journey. (CBC News)

The school — which closed in 1910 before being converted into a jail and, finally, a home for delinquent boys — burned down in 1938.

Acknowledging Regina's dark past

The industrial school was home to more than 400 children during its 19-year run.

Windolph said diseases such as tuberculosis led to the deaths of many children at the school.

Provincial Heritage Property plaque reads: 'Focused on assimilation into Euro-Canadian society, the industrial school system has had a damaging and lasting impact on the students, their families and their communities.' (CBC News)

"Nobody kept the historical evidence of who's in the site," Windolph said, adding there is no way to confirm how many children are buried there due to the practice of stacking graves.

"We may never know the whole story, but we definitely know the students who walked through the school had a part of them die culturally."

Cemetery still privately owned

Windolph said the land is still technically owned by Nadeem Islam, who helped unveil the plaque.

"We've been working jointly with [Islam] to give open access to Indigenous people and communities to do their ceremonies," Windolph said.

She said the priority of the association is saving the resting place of the children.

"They're now safe from development, but there's still a lot to be done."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said Michael Fougere is mayor of Saskatoon. He is mayor of Regina.
    Aug 14, 2018 8:20 PM CT

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