Chief Michael Starr has previously said the nation is looking for relatives that never came home
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Star Blanket Cree Nation is set to make a "major announcement" in connection with ground penetrating radar searches conducted at the site of the former Lebret Indian Industrial School.
Chief Michael Starr will be joined by members of the community Thursday morning at the only remnant of the school that is still standing — a gymnasium in the village of Lebret, Sask., located about 75 kilometres northeast of Regina.
The gymnasium now serves as a gathering centre for the nation's activities.
Many members of Star Blanket Cree Nation were forced to attend the former residential school, which operated under different names including Qu'appelle, St. Paul's and Whitecalf, over the more than 100 years that it remained open.
Starr has previously said that the community is looking for answers and to find relatives that never came home.
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.
The band used lessons and stories from the past to inform the search and also consulted with elders to hear the stories they were told about who may be buried at the school.
Ground penetrating radar searches began in November 2021. Star Blanket officials have said they were planning to examine more than 55 acres on the reserve.
Star Blanket was also able to secure agreements with some landowners to search areas once operated by the residential school.
The entire search was projected to take at least three years.
Lebret Indian Industrial School opened in 1884 and didn't close its doors until 1998, making it one of the last residential schools to shut down in Saskatchewan.
In its final years the school was not a federally run institution — administration was transferred to the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School Council in 1973.
Thursday's announcement is set to begin at 11 a.m. CST.
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander Quon is a reporter with CBC Saskatchewan based in Regina. After working in Atlantic Canada for four years he's happy to be back in his home province. He has previously worked with the CBC News investigative unit in Nova Scotia and Global News in Halifax. Alexander specializes in data-reporting, COVID-19 and municipal political coverage. He can be reached at: Alexander.Quon@cbc.ca.
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