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Marieval Indian Residential School

Former Canadian Indian residential school in Saskatchewan (1899–1997)

Marieval Indian Residential School
The school in 1923

Coordinates50°34′50.2″N 102°39′27.7″W / 50.580611°N 102.657694°W / 50.580611; -102.657694Coordinates: 50°34′50.2″N 102°39′27.7″W / 50.580611°N 102.657694°W / 50.580611; -102.657694[1]
Former namesCrooked Lake Boarding School (1899)
Cowessess Boarding School (1909)
Cowessess Indian Residential School (1924–1968)
Cowessess Student Residence (1969)
Marieval Student Residence (1969–1981)
Marieval Community Education Centre & Student Residence (1977)
Marieval Community Education Centre (1981–1987)
Cowessess Community Education Centre (1987)
Cowessess Student Residence (1997)[2]
TypeCanadian Indian residential school
Religious affiliation(s)Catholic
OpenedDecember 19, 1898; 122 years ago (1898-12-19)
StatusClosed (demolished)
ClosedJune 30, 1997; 24 years ago (1997-06-30)
AuthorityCatholic Church in Canada (1899–1969)
Government of Canada (1969–1987)
Cowessess First Nation (1987–1997)
OversightCrown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
LanguageEnglish, French[3]

The Marieval Indian Residential School was part of the Canadian Indian residential school system. Located on the Cowessess 73 reserve in Marieval, Saskatchewan, it operated from 1898[nb 1] to 1997. It was located in Qu'Appelle Valley, east of Crooked Lake and 24 km (15 mi) north of Broadview.[4]

In June 2021, 751 unmarked graves were found on the school grounds by the Cowessess First Nation, the most found in Canada to date according to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents Saskatchewan's First Nations.[5][6][7] This marks the second discovery of unmarked graves in Canada in 2021, following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School the previous month.[8]


The school opened on December 19, 1898. [nb 1] The school was first run by four sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions and subsequently by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Saint-Hyacinthe from 1901 to 1979.[4] In its first year of operation, the school had an enrollment of 14 students, with the capacity to accommodate 45 students.[10] The government of Canada took over running the school in 1969, having funded it since 1901.[11] The Cowessess First Nation ran the school starting in 1987.[11] The school was closed on June 30, 1997,[2] and subsequently demolished in 1999 and replaced with a day school.[4]

Enrollment at the school peaked during the 1962–1963 academic year, with 148 residents and 89 day students. At the school, students were only allowed to visit their parents on Sundays—a practice that ended with a new principal in 1933. Since then, children were permitted to visit their parents only under special circumstances. Students had their hair cut when they arrived at the school, and each student was assigned a number, which was used when staff members became upset. There was an expectation of staff to "physically dominate their students".[3]

Discovery of unmarked graves

A burial ground next to the school was first used in 1885, before the establishment of the school.[9] In May 2021, the Cowessess First Nation announced they would search the site using ground-penetrating radar, in collaboration with a group from Saskatchewan Polytechnic.[9] At the time, only one-third of the graves were estimated to have been marked. The search was planned two years earlier, but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic; it eventually started on May 31,[12] and was expanded four times after anecdotes from elders that bodies had been buried past the school grounds.[13] On June 23, 2021, hundreds of unmarked graves were announced to have been located at the school, the most found in Canada to date according to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents Saskatchewan's First Nations.[5] The total number of graves was announced as 751 in a press conference the next day, over three times higher than the 215 discovered in Kamloops the previous month.[6][9] A total of 44,000 m2 (470,000 sq ft) was searched, with each of the 751 "recorded hits" possibly indicating more than one body.[12] However, because this site is also known to contain the remains of band members and people from outside the community,[14] the proportion of the 751 recorded hits that could relate to the residential school is unknown at this time. It is likely that at least 600 of the detections correspond to actual graves, since the radar technology had an error rate of 10–15%.[15] The bodies were not part of a mass grave; rather, headstones had been removed by representatives of the Catholic Church in the 1960s.[6][16]


Premier of Saskatchewan Scott Moe expressed his support for the families of the deceased in a written statement.[5] Premier of Ontario Doug Ford tweeted "My heart aches for Indigenous communities with news of more unmarked grave sites and hundreds more children who never returned home. We must confront and learn from this horrific side of history, including here in Ontario, so families may find the closure they deserve."[17] Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, wrote in a tweet that the discovery was "absolutely tragic, but not surprising".[18] In Saskatoon, the city's flags are planned to be lowered to half-mast on June 24, 2021.[5] Bobby Cameron, chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, said, “This was a crime against humanity ... The only crime we committed as children was being born Indigenous ... We had concentration camps here. We had them here in Saskatchewan. They were called Indian residential schools.”[19] Donald Bolen, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, apologized for the church's actions and said they would help provide information.[20]

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau responded that the findings were "Canada's responsibility to bear" then offered his sympathy. In response, Marion Buller, chief commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, dismissed Trudeau's words as "thoughts and prayers" and asked for "concrete action" instead. New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh asked the federal government to implement all 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.[21]

In the wake of the Marieval and Kamloops discoveries, various communities in British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nunavut have decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations for 2021, opting instead for subdued events or time for reflection.[22][23][24] The CN Tower in Toronto is scheduled to be lit orange on Canada Day in a show of support for Indigenous communities.[25]

In the days following the discovery, the St. Paul Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon was covered in graffiti, consisting of the words "we were children" surrounded by red handprints and fake blood smears.[26] Further, as of June 27, four Catholic churches (St Ann's Church, Chopaka Church, the Sacred Heart Church and St. Gregory's Church) on First Nations land in western Canada were destroyed by fire within the last week, in blazes considered suspicious by local authorities.[27][28]

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Catholic organization that operated this school, along with 48 others, announced shortly after the findings that they would disclose all historical documents in its possession.[29]

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ a b The school has been widely reported as operating from 1899,[5][9] however both the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the Government of Canada list an opening date of December 19, 1898.[2][10] In the latter, the annual report for 1899 from the Department of Indian Affairs details that the school opened on December 19, 1898, but that the building had not yet been completed so operations took place elsewhere.[10]


  1. ^ "Marieval (SK)". University of British Columbia. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Marieval Residential School". National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Quon, Alexander (June 25, 2021). "What the TRC report tells us about the Marieval Indian Residential School". CBC News. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Niessen, Shuana (2017). Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Residential Schools in Saskatchewan (PDF). Faculty of Education, University of Regina. pp. 72–73. ISBN 978-0-7731-0750-2. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Sask. First Nation announces hundreds of unmarked graves found at former residential school site". CBC News. June 23, 2021. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c Taylor, Brooke (June 24, 2021). "Cowessess First Nation says 751 unmarked graves found near former Sask. residential school". Toronto: CTV News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  7. ^ Austen, Ian; Dan, Bilefsky (June 24, 2021). "In Canada, Another 'Horrific' Discovery of Indigenous Children's Remains". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  8. ^ Coletta, Amanda; Miller, Michael E. (June 24, 2021). "Hundreds of graves found at former residential school for Indigenous children in Canada". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ a b c d Nardi, Christopher (June 23, 2021). "Hundreds of bodies reported found in unmarked graves at former Saskatchewan residential school". The National Post. Ottawa. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Dominion of Canada Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs for the Year Ended June 30 1899 (Report). Ottawa: Department of Indian Affairs. February 6, 1900. p. 323. Retrieved June 24, 2021. This school was first opened on December 19, 1898. The structure is not yet completed, therefore we are obliged to carry on the work of the school in buildings already existing.
  11. ^ a b Miller, Michael E.; Coletta, Amanda (June 24, 2021). "Unmarked graves found at another former residential school in Canada". The Washington Post. Toronto. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Quon, Alexander (June 25, 2021). "How ground-penetrating radar helped discover 751 unmarked graves at Marieval Indian Residential School". CBC News. Retrieved June 26, 2021.
  13. ^ Neustaeter, Brooklyn (June 23, 2021). "Sask. First Nation finds hundreds of burial sites near former residential school". Toronto: CTV News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  14. ^ "Survivors, community honour 751 unmarked graves at Sask. residential school site with vigil". CBC. June 27, 2021. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  15. ^ "Canada: Hundreds of graves found at Indigenous boarding school". Al Jazeera. June 24, 2021. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  16. ^ Skjerven, Kelly (June 24, 2021). "751 unmarked graves found at former Saskatchewan residential school". Global News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  17. ^ Ford, Doug [@fordnation] (June 23, 2021). "My heart aches for Indigenous communities" (Tweet). Retrieved June 24, 2021 – via Twitter.
  18. ^ Hager, Mike; Tait, Carrie (June 23, 2021). "Cowessess First Nation discovers hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school site". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  19. ^ 751 Unmarked Graves Found at Another Residential School for Indigenous Children June 24, 2021 www.vice.com, accessed June 24, 2021
  20. ^ Dangerfield, Katie (June 24, 2021). "'They made us believe we didn't have souls': Survivors of Saskatchewan residential school speak out". Global News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  21. ^ MacDonald, Brennan (June 24, 2021). "'Canada's responsibility': Trudeau responds to report of unmarked graves at residential school site". CBC News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  22. ^ Silberman, Alexandre (June 24, 2021). "New Brunswick communities cancel Canada Day celebrations to 'step back and reflect'". CBC News. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  23. ^ Miller, Scott (June 25, 2021). "Midwestern Ont. communities cancel Canada Day plans due to grave site discoveries". Wingham: CTV News. Retrieved June 26, 2021.
  24. ^ Driscoll, Kent (June 24, 2021). "2 Nunavut communities cancel Canada Day parades". APTN National News. Retrieved June 26, 2021.
  25. ^ Rocca, Ryan (June 24, 2021). "CN Tower to be lit orange on Canada Day in solidarity with Indigenous communities". Global News. Retrieved June 25, 2021.
  26. ^ Lynn, Josh (June 25, 2021). "Saskatoon Catholic church hit with graffiti following discovery of unmarked residential school graves". CTV News. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  27. ^ "Canada: Fire destroys two Catholic churches on indigenous land". BBC. June 22, 2021. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  28. ^ "More churches burn down on Canada indigenous land". BBC. June 26, 2021. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  29. ^ "Catholic group to release all records from Marieval, Kamloops residential schools". The Canadian Press. CTV News. CTV NEws. June 25, 2021.

External links