Honouring the Children of Marieval Residential School
NOTE: Please be aware that the following message contains references to the death of children, residential schools, and genocide.
On Thursday, the Cowessess First Nation announced that 751 unmarked graves have been found at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, which operated from 1899 to 1997.
Operating with the goal to assimilate Indigenous children into white Christian society, the Indian Residential School system played a significant role in the genocide of Indigenous peoples across Canada. According to Chief Cadmus Delorme, the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School are being treated as a crime scene, particularly because the removal of headstones is illegal. The 751 graves originally had headstones which were removed in the 1960s by the Roman Catholic Church which operated the school. Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said the First Nation hopes to find the gravestones that once marked these graves. Delorme said the church that ran the school removed the headstones, stating, “We didn't remove the headstones. Removing headstones is a crime in this country. We are treating this like a crime scene.” We also have to be prepared for the fact that there will doubtless be further graves found, and the traumatizing and retraumatizing impact that will have on communities and nations, including our own colleagues and students.
While this information may be shocking and difficult to process for many, it has been shared through oral stories by local Nehiyawak and Anishinaabe peoples for decades. It is time we listen to their truth and heed their calls for action. As a community, I urge you to engage intentionally with each other to consider how this devastating news may be impacting students and colleagues, the pain and grief members of our community are experiencing, and the need for accommodations and additional supports at this time.
Community support is available through the 24-hour Indian Residential School Survivor Society Crisis Line at 1-800-721-0066. Centennial also provides confidential access to Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) services through LifeWorks (formerly Morneau Shepell) for all of our employees. For immediate assistance, employees can call 1-844-880-9142. For students, please draw their attention to the Student Experience Office (416-289-5000 ext. 2499 or email email@example.com) and/or the Centre for Accessible Learning and Counselling Services (416-289-5000, ext. 3850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org).
The College is making a donation to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, an organization that “strives to provide physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual growth, development, and healing through culturally-based values and guiding principles for Survivors, Families, and Communities.” An additional donation will be made to the Woodland Cultural Centre, a community organization that “serves to preserve and promote Indigenous history, art, language and culture”. We will continue to do our part to advance truth and reconciliation through meaningful action.
If you would like to donate to these organizations, please visit:
- https://www.irsss.ca/ – Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- https://woodlandculturalcentre.ca/ – Woodland Cultural Centre
Now is a time to listen, a time to learn, and a time to act.
With greatest appreciation and respect,
Dr. Craig Stephenson
President & CEO