Algoma University commits to finding unmarked residential school graves
SAULT STE. MARIE -- Following the discovery of the mass grave at a former residential school in British Columbia, officials at Algoma University and the Shingwauk Residential School Centre in Sault Ste. Marie are working on next steps in its “commitment to action,” which includes a search for unmarked graves around the university itself.
A memorial to the 215 children whose graves were discovered in B.C. continues to grow on the front steps of what was once the Shingwauk Residential School, where Algoma University now sits.
Officials are considering how best to locate unmarked graves of former Shingwauk students. One of the methods being considered is ground-penetrating radar.
However, officials said no work will begin until the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association is consulted.
“They’ve been at this work for more than 40 years,” said Algoma University vice-president Mary Wabano-McKay. “We look to them to help us, to remind us to be careful, to be patient, and to do everything in a good way. And I mean that from a cultural sense and from a spiritual sense."
Krista McCracken, director of the Shingwauk Residential School Centre, said they have been in contact with the centre’s various national partners.
“We have an ongoing partnership with the National Centre For Truth & Reconciliation, as well as (University of British Columbia’s) Indian Residential School History & Dialogue Centre,” said McCracken.
“We also work with survivor groups from across the country. So continuing to have those conversations and continuing to foster those partnerships.”
The president of Algoma University, Asima Vezina, said she has been in contact with Sault Ste. Marie MP Terry Sheehan about possible federal financial support. She said there will be many discussions in the coming weeks.
“We are on a site that has a number of partners and a number of boards, and all of us are going to have to come together and really think deeply about how to approach this really important work together and in partnership,” said Vezina.
A memorial ceremony is being held Friday afternoon at Algoma University’s Shingwauk Hall for the 215 children whose remains were discovered. Organizers are inviting people to join virtually at 3 p.m. via Zoom or Facebook.