Over a span of four weeks, the Minegoziibe Anishinabe, also known as Pine Creek First Nation, conducted excavation work at a Catholic church near the former Pine Creek Residential School in Manitoba, Canada. The goal was to uncover evidence of mass unmarked burial sites that had been claimed to exist across the country. However, the excavation efforts failed to unearth any bodies at the 14 suspected burial locations in the church’s basement, according to Global News.
The decision to excavate came after ground-penetrating radar scans had detected anomalies at these sites, adding to a series of discoveries made over the past two years in Canada. These findings were initially reported as “mass graves” of indigenous children who had attended residential schools. The first significant discovery was announced in May 2021 by the leaders of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Band, who confirmed the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, as reported by the National Post. Similar surveys conducted throughout the summer of 2021 continued to reveal evidence of graves potentially holding hundreds or even thousands of indigenous children.
The news of these potential mass graves spread rapidly and sparked widespread protests across Canada. The aftermath saw over 60 Canadian churches being vandalized in major cities. Residential schools, which operated from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century, have long been a contentious part of Canadian history. These government and church-run institutions aimed to assimilate indigenous children into Canadian culture and subjected many attendees to harsh treatment.
Although reports of mistreatment within residential schools had been known, it was not until the recent surveys that suspicions of mass killings within these schools arose. The Canadian government responded forcefully, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledging the findings and expressing the pain felt by families, survivors, and Indigenous communities in a statement released in June 2021. This statement followed reports of 751 unmarked graves near a former residential school in Saskatchewan, according to CBC.
Trudeau emphasized Canada’s responsibility to bear the hurt and trauma experienced by Indigenous communities and pledged to provide them with the necessary funding and resources to address these historical wrongs. While the ability to bring back those lost is impossible, Trudeau vowed to reveal the truth of these injustices and honor the memory of those affected.
In conclusion, four weeks of excavation work conducted by the Minegoziibe Anishinabe failed to find evidence of mass unmarked burial sites at the Catholic church near the former Pine Creek Residential School in Manitoba. These excavation efforts were in response to previous ground-penetrating radar scans that had detected anomalies, suggesting the presence of potential burial locations. The news of mass graves containing the remains of indigenous children across Canada has caused significant national controversy, leading to protests and calls for justice. The Canadian government has pledged to support Indigenous communities and address the historical wrongs associated with the residential school system.