AMC Sends Prayers and Condolences to Star Blanket Cree Nation Following Announcement of Ground Penetrating Radar Search Results
January 12, 2023
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) extend prayers for Chief Michael Starr and Star Blanket Cree Nation in response to their announcement that a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) search at the former Lebret Indian Industrial School revealed more than 2,000 anomalies and a physical search found what was confirmed by the Saskatchewan Coroners office to be a child’s jawbone fragment more than 100 years old.
“Our hearts are with Star Blanket Cree Nation as they grieve this new discovery. For many, it is a heartbreaking affirmation of what we knew was coming but is still hard to hear and process. The truths that survivors carry is heavy, but we are here today to do whatever is necessary to find healing and to bring our little ones home.” Says AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
Star Blanket Cree Nation’s Chief Michael Starr was joined by Director of Operations and project lead Sheldon Poitras in Lebret, Sask., today to speak of their findings, which took place at the former Lebret Indian Industrial School site. Of the more than 2000 anomalies identified through GPR, Sheldon Poitras said that not every ‘hit’ will be a grave. Many of the anomalies are likely to be buried debris, such as rocks or tree roots.
Starting the search for unmarked graves took months of preparation, including a smudge walk of the school’s grounds carried out on the first-ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021. Star Blanket Cree Nation leadership utilized stories from the past to inform the search and consulted with Elders and Survivors to hear the stories they were told about who may be buried at the school.
Poitras said that their next steps, determined through consultation with Knowledge Keepers, is to conduct core sampling to check for DNA and confirm which anomalies are unmarked graves.
“We send prayers to the team working diligently to ensure our little ones are discovered and given a proper farewell surrounded by family and ceremony. We continue to support First Nations as some are just beginning the process of searching and others are mid or nearing the end of their searches,” says Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports. A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419. Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or online at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
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Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.