Cree Nation of Chisasibi – June 21, 2022
Ground Penetrating Radar
On the sites of Former Residential Schools in Fort George, Quebec.
The Cree Nation of Chisasibi will seek its lost children, and pursue answers about what happened at the residential schools on Fort George island, the Cree Nation of Chisasibi announced today.
After extensive consultations with former residential school students and Survivors, Elders, intergenerational Survivors and the community, the Cree Nation of Chisasibi is committing to moving forward with the use of ground penetrating radar at the five sites of former Anglican and Catholic residential schools.
“We will conduct this ground search, armed with the knowledge the answers will be difficult for many in, and outside, Eeyou Istchee,” said Chief Daisy House. “Our missing children never made it home. Where they lie is sacred ground – it’s up to us to bless it in their memories.”
House said the search will not be easy or simple, given the terrain at the sites.
“Fort George was our community home until we relocated in 1979, and the sites have not been maintained in the intervening years,” she said. “We know of certain graves and cemeteries, but there will be many unique challenges to this search not present in other situations.”
The residential schools on Fort George were operated by the Catholic and Anglican churches, and House called on both to share their records and open their archives more fully to ensure the search will be productive.
“With the Pope coming to Quebec in July, His Holiness can direct church officials to stop blocking access to records as part of the church’s commitment to truth and reconciliation,” House said.
“That step alone will help as part of our healing journey and will paint a clearer picture of our shared history.”
Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) Chief Ghislain Picard echoed Chief House’s call for more cooperation from the churches. “I fully support the ground search initiated by the Cree Nation of Chisasibi in Fort George Island,” said Picard. “We also demand the Catholic and Anglican Churches release all records pertaining to these residential schools for the truth to fully emerge from this unique and complex process.”
Grand Chief of Eeyou Istchee Mandy Gull-Masty said the entire Nation stands with Chisasibi during these difficult days.
“The community of Chisasibi after extensive consultation with members of the Cree Nation is advancing and announcing a difficult next step,” said Grand Chief Gull-Masty. “I wish to acknowledge the community for all of the efforts that they have put into this process and their sensitivity to all those impacted by these schools.”
Further details will be shared with the community as they come available, but House said the community decided to move forward largely based on the need for answers, especially for the former residential school students and Survivors, adding the ground search is a necessary step when it comes to intergenerational trauma caused by residential school.
“We must do what we can to protect our future generations from this pain. Eeyouch are resilient people,” House said. “We will heal together, and we will welcome these loved ones home by honouring them with the knowledge we wanted to learn their fate.”
“We miss them, and the lives they may have led. They deserved better. It’s our responsibility – our duty to the land and to our Ancestors – to find the truth.”