Letter to the community regarding the Grouard (St. Bernard’s) Indian Residential School burial sites

Grieving the news of the confirmation of potential unmarked graves in Grouard, AB with relations in Kapawe’No First Nation.


Before reading further, this summary contains information related to unmarked graves at the sites of former Residential Schools. This information is unsettling for most people. If you are experiencing trauma or feeling triggered, help is available 24/7 for survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. Mental health support for Indigenous peoples across the land we call Canada is available through the Hope for Wellness chatline at 1-800-721-0066 or using the chat box at https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/. Campus wellness services at the University of Alberta are also available for undergraduate students, as well as for faculty, staff, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows

Today, our community learns the sad news of the confirmation of potential unmarked graves around the site of the St. Bernard’s Indian Residential School in the Treaty 8 Kapawe’No First Nation in Grouard, Alberta, just four hours northwest of Edmonton. The search was conducted by the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology (IPIA) here at the University of Alberta.

I light a candle in memory of the children who did not return home, for their families, and for their communities each time I learn of the confirmation of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools. This is one of the ways I try to process the ongoing work that is happening across this place now called Canada. I have friends who are residential school survivors and I am a part of a large family that continues to live with the intergenerational effects of the residential and day school systems. Today, I once again lit a candle and it will burn all day in support of all who are directly and indirectly affected by this news.

The loss of Indigenous residential school children was long spoken about by residential school survivors, their families, and their communities who grieved their loss then, when these children did not return home. These children who attended St. Bernard’s were also relatives of current University of Alberta students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

As Indigenous peoples, we deeply felt their loss when the children were taken from us and now, as the graves are confirmed, our community feels this trauma again as the news reaches the larger community. 

I ask that you remember these children, their families, and communities; and that you remember that there are relatives of these children who are students, colleagues, and alumni of the University of Alberta. Please remember in all of the ways that you individually and collectively remember—perhaps it is through prayer, perhaps by lighting a candle, perhaps by smudging, perhaps it is by offering support to another.  

This news comes as the world watches with horror and deep concern for the evolving war in Ukraine, the people there and the relatives here that pray for an end. We especially feel this event given the longstanding ties between Indigenous communities and the Ukrainian immigrants who came to Alberta to build a new home. Coupled with the uncertainty of the last couple of years with COVID-19 and events closer to home, these are troubling and unsettling times. 

Take good care of yourselves and offer love and care to those around you. 

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