Regina residential school cemetery gets provincial heritage status

The cemetery at the site of the Regina Indian Industrial School, which operated as a residential school for Indigenous children from 1891-1910, now has provincial heritage status.

1st residential school cemetery to receive heritage designation in Sask.

Children's toys were attached to a fence around a cemetery associated with the old Regina Indian Industrial School. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

For the first time, a residential school cemetery site in Saskatchewan has a provincial heritage designation. 

The government made the announcement Wednesday at the site of the Regina Indian Industrial School, which operated as a residential school for Indigenous children from 1891-1910.

At least 38 children are buried at the site, located west of Regina on Pinkie Road.

The announcement and smudge ceremony brought Janine Windolph to tears. The president of the Regina Indian Industrial School commemorative association has been attending walks and events to raise awareness about the cemetery for years. 

Janine Windolph, president of the Regina Indian Industrial School commemorative association, says it's been a long journey to get recognition for the former residential school site. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

"It's a positive tears. It's a long journey, so you definitely feel that weight being lifted today," said Windolph.

The government said the provincial designation is intended to recognize and pay tribute to the young children who lost their lives at the school. 

"There was a special feeling here today ... I think now there certainly is closure," said Ken Cheveldayoff, provincial minister of parks, culture and sport.

Cheveldayoff said the ministry is open to giving heritage status to other residential school cemeteries around the province, should people request it. 

Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Ken Cheveldayoff designated the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery a provincial heritage property on July 26. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

Moving forward

The new designation protects the site, which belongs to a private landowner, from being altered, unless provincial and municipal approval is granted.

The cemetery received municipal heritage status in September 2016. 

Members of the commemorative association said they are also seeking federal heritage status, although they believe that could take up to two years.

In the meantime, the commemorative group said it wants to fix some of the more immediate issues, like repairing the fence and extending it so that six unmarked graves are included within the recognized area.

A stone marker is inscribed with the names of children of Rev. A.J. McLeod, the first principal of the Regina Indian Industrial School. The cemetery was abandoned for about 100 years. (City of Regina)