Region in mourning over discovery of possible graves


Yesterday, the Kaatagoging Survivor’s group of the St. Mary’s Indian Residential School announced its preliminary findings of 171 anomalies suggesting potential graves sites at the school site. The announcement has sent ripples through the entire Treaty #3 region.

“I am absolutely heartbroken at the announcement of 171 potential grave sites at St. Mary’s Indian Residential School,” said Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh. “Today, the entirety of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty #3 mourns with Wauzhushk Onigum, the survivors, and intergenerational survivors of St. Mary’s Indian Residential School.”

Chief Chris Skead and Wauzhushk Onigum Nation have been working on an investigation of the former St. Mary’s school site since May 2022. The Treaty #3 territory is the location of five former residential schools covering six sites. St. Mary’s operated from 1897 to 1972 and was attended by children from across the Treaty #3 territory and beyond.

“With this announcement today, the first of its kind in Treaty #3, I ask that we all take a moment to reach out and connect with each other so that none of us are alone when hearing this devastating news.”

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford was also moved by the announcement.

“The news from Wauzhushk Onigum Nation is heartbreaking. Today’s discovery, the result of an eight-month investigation, is a tragic first for Ontario,” he said. “As the Member of Provincial Parliament for Kenora Rainy-River and the Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs, I join with the Wauzhushk Onigum Nation and all Treaty 3 partners to mourn today’s sad news.”

He has been in contact with band leadership since the announcement.

“As soon as the findings were released, I communicated with Chief Skead to offer Ontario’s full support. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the community during this difficult time and will continue working with partners to assist with the next phase of this work,” Rickford said. “As we continue to uncover the truth of our collective past on the journey toward reconciliation, we will continue to support these investigations and will support healing for Survivors, their families and community members suffering from mental health and addictions due to intergenerational trauma and harms inflicted by the Indian Residential School system.”

Support services are available for those affected by this news. Culturally relevant mental health support services for members of the Indigenous community are accessible toll-free at 1-855-242-3310 or online at Hope For Wellness.

You can also contact the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-866-925-4419.

The leadership and the staff of Grand Council Treaty #3 consider this to be some of the most difficult work they have undertaken and will continue stand alongside Wauzhushk Onigum on the path to truth and healing, they said.