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Manitoba First Nation to begin search for potential unmarked graves


Members of a western Manitoba First Nation gathered at the site of its former residential school this morning to start a critical month-long search in a good way.

Minegoziibe Anishinabe is to break ground this week where potential graves of children forced to attend residential school may be.

Spiritual advisers led a morning pipe ceremony while a sacred fire was lit.

The sacred fire is expected to burn for the entirety of the excavation of an area under the church where 14 anomalies were detected using ground-penetrating radar last year.

Brenda Catcheway, economic development coordinator for the nation, told CTV News Monday that a total of 71 anomalies were found on the site, yet the nation is unsure if it will search every spot.

“We have 31 anomalies out in our east field, which we’ll likely be looking into doing something with next summer,” she said.

Emily Holland is the forensic anthropologist on the project, working as a liaison during the search. She has been working with Sioux Valley since 2018, who has worked on excavation of its own residential school site.

“It’s different, it’s quite unique, nobody knows what’s in here,” she said of the basement.

Holland said Wednesday is the date her crews have scheduled to begin the excavation of the church basement, with Tuesday being used as a day of planning.

Chief Derek Nepinak says survivors expressed interest in digging up the area.

He hopes whatever the outcome may be, the search will provide his nation the opportunity to heal.

More than a dozen other First Nations have started ground searches since 2021. 

-With files from The Canadian Press

If you are a former residential school student in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free line at 1-800-721-0066.

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here. Top Stories

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