Statement from MAS Regarding the Discovery of 751 unmarked graves at Cowessess First Nation
Today, along with the rest of the country, we heard the announcement from Chief Delorme from Cowessess First Nation about the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on its lands. Although this announcement is horrific, sadly, it is unsurprising. We expect that there will be more unmarked graves and burial sites found at many residential school sites across the country and here at home in Saskatchewan.
We believe that museums can play an essential role in the truth-telling necessary for our country at this moment. All Canadians, especially settler Canadians, must educate themselves about the painful history and current realities Indigenous people face in our country as a result of the impacts of colonialism. Many organizations, MAS included, have spoken at great lengths about truth and reconciliation. However, the fact remains that there cannot be any form of meaningful reconciliation without the truth. We encourage anyone reading this to self-educate themselves about the true history of our country; that responsibility is yours. It is not the job of Indigenous people to educate you. Members of our staff at MAS have taken the “Indigenous Canada” course offered for free through Coursera by the University of Alberta. From an Indigenous perspective, this course explores key issues facing Indigenous peoples today from a historical and critical perspective highlighting national and local Indigenous-settler relations. This course is a great place to start with your self-education. You can find more information about it online.
We also encourage you to read the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report. Become familiar with these calls and decide what you can do to take action in your life, either professionally or personally. You can view the 94 Calls to Action here. Break it down and read one a day, and reflect upon it. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation is also a great resource for finding out more information about Residential School history, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and more.
MAS readily acknowledges the harms and mistakes of the past. We are committed to moving forward in partnership with Indigenous Nations in the spirit of reconciliation and collaboration, and we acknowledge that this has been a slow process. We know that there are many, many years of work ahead of us to be on a solid path towards reconciliation as museums are inherently colonial institutions. However, we also believe in living heritage and its ability to shape narratives and address critical contemporary challenges, including the ongoing impacts of colonialism and systemic racism.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered 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.