Searching for the identities of two boys in Sault drownings over a century old
The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association is seeking help from communities who know about an incident in which two boys drowned in Sault Ste. Marie more than a century ago. (Christian D'Avino/CTV News)
SAULT STE. MARIE -- A group of Shingwauk residential school survivors is looking to honour two unnamed Indigenous boys who drowned in a Sault Ste. Marie pond more than a century ago.
The Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association wants to erect a plaque in honour of the two boys, who are believed to have drowned at Snowdon Park in 1915 and are looking for help to uncover their identities.
"We have a list of the communities and we're reaching out to see if any family members can remember one or two of the boys not coming home from attending Shingwauk residential school," said Ed Sadowski, a researcher for the group.
Sadowski learned of the drowning deaths after watching tapes in 1991 of a former student who recalled the incident.
He said he believes the Government of Canada has records of the boys' existence, based upon annuity payments the boys would've received from treaties for status Indigenous people.
However, Sadowski said they've so far been unwilling to release those records.
"If they're really honest about what they're saying (about reconciliation), then they actually should release these records to researchers so they can actually find these individuals, and actually all of the individuals who received some sort of annuity payment," he said.
SImilar incident in 1960
Research into the deaths also uncovered a very similar incident that took place decades later.
In 1960, four Indigenous girls playing in the park heard the screams of two brothers near the pond.
"We rushed over to see what happened, and found that they had fallen in," said Ellen Pine, one of the girls. "We rushed to nearby neighbours to help out and eventually found one who was able to pull one of them out alive."
In honour of the two incidents, the association said it will be putting up a plaque featuring the names of everyone involved.
"It's an important part of history, I think, because we never know when we're going to lose someone that we love," Pine said.
So far, research has lead the group to narrow down their search to First Nations in southern Ontario.
"It would be a tremendous disservice to those boys if we didn't try to uncover their names," said Irene Barbeau, vice-president of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association. "The satisfaction is that you can say, well I tried and we didn't do it, that's the best thing you can do."
Barbeau said the association wants to put the plaque up next year and is pleading for anyone with information to help.