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RCMP transfers land of residential school cemetery to commemorative association


July 16, 2019
By Staff
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki transfers RIIS cemetery to Commemorative Association. Photo: RCMP

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has transferred the Regina Indian Industrial School (RIIS) cemetery to the RIIS Commemorative Association. This land transfer honours the memory of the children buried in the cemetery during the school’s 19 years of operation and implements the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 75 to protect and maintain sites where residential school children were buried.

Minister Ralph Goodale, RCMP Comm. Brenda Lucki, and Sarah Longman, president of the RIIS Commemorative Association, joined local Indigenous communities, elders and families of the children who attended the RIIS, as well as provincial and municipal representatives in a ceremony that forms part of the RCMP’s ongoing efforts to advance reconciliation.

The ceremony included prayers from Indigenous grandmothers, remarks by Minister Goodale, Comm. Lucki and other representatives.

“The RCMP is humbled to have played a role in this symbolic act of reconciliation,” Lucki said. “The RCMP recognizes that reconciliation is not a single event or speech, nor is it something that can be checked off a list. Reconciliation is constant, a movement towards the future, a reflection of the past, and an ongoing dialogue.”

Two students read the names of the First Nations from where the students originated and an honour song was performed in recognition of the students’ descendants and relatives. A reception followed at the RCMP Heritage Centre.

The RIIS was opened by the federal government in 1891 and was run by the Presbyterian Church until the school closed in 1910. Over 500 First Nations and Métis children from 43 Indigenous communities across the prairies were sent to the RIIS ranging in age from three to their early twenties. It is estimated that at least 35 of the children who died at RIIS are buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery.

In September 2016, the cemetery received municipal heritage designation and in April 2017, provincial heritage status was granted. Since then, the RIIS Commemorative Association had been working to suitably commemorate this site in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.