Residential propety

Inauguration of the new Indian residential schools memorial

The memorial was unveiled at the event on Tuesday in the grounds of Government House.

REGINA – National Indigenous Peoples Day has seen the unveiling of a new memorial on the grounds of Government House.

Lieutenant Governor Russ Mirasty, Government of Saskatchewan, and Indigenous leaders, Elders and residential school survivors were on hand for the unveiling of the Saskatchewan Residential Schools Memorial on Tuesday afternoon.

The memorial, located on the grounds of Government House to the west, will be open to members of the public as a place to visit and reflect. It responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 82, recommending the installation of a residential school memorial in every capital city to honor children and their survivors.

Despite this call to action, in his remarks, Mirasty noted that there was only one such memorial built at the provincial level, in Newfoundland and Labrador. “I wondered then, I still wonder now, why hasn’t more been done in other jurisdictions and jurisdictions.”

Mirasty noted that the province had been very supportive of the memorial and that he had reached out to elders and knowledge keepers. The answer he got, resoundingly, was that it was necessary.

“We need a lasting place where people can remember, reflect and pray, and reflect on what residential schools did to our country, but specifically to Indigenous peoples, and those impacts continue to this day.

Through these discussions, it was decided that all elements of the site would come from nature and that all plants would be in the heartland of Saskatchewan.

It was particularly important that the central monument be a natural feature. The centerpiece was a large boulder chosen by the Lieutenant Governor in Treaty 4 territory. The large stone came from the north slope of the Qu’Appelle Valley.

Engraved on one side of the stone was a plaque showing the map of Saskatchewan and the location of its residential schools.

The large stone was placed in the middle of the memorial site. Right in front of her was placed a smaller smudge stone to be used for ceremonies and smudges.

Plants and natural elements were placed in a circular pattern around the memorial, which Mirasty said was meant to signify the worldview of seeing and understanding the things around us. Also included are benches, made from reclaimed wood from the property.

The other important element of the site was that it was a place of learning.

“That was a very important element that was emphasized over and over again. We have this experience, we have this lived experience as an individual or a family member that we know, or community members that we know, and we felt, as I said earlier, that we need to share this knowledge, which can be experienced, but there is a broader understanding of residential schools and their impact.

The idea is for the monument to be more than a physical structure, but also to have a spiritual aspect which was very important.

“People will come here and have already prayed here at this site,” Mirasty said.

Elder Ted Quewezance, himself a residential school survivor, helped Mirasty unveil the stone monument. He said it was a special day.

“I reach out to you in a very positive way. Support our survivors, support our community, support the families of missing children we find across the country… What you see here behind us is something that is going to be for future generations of people in this province. Why it’s here, what it’s about, that’s going to be the story.

Government officials were present at the ceremony, including the Minister responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs, Don McMorris, who delivered remarks on behalf of Premier Scott Moe.

“It’s not just about acknowledging the past,” said Minister McMorris. “But it’s mostly learning from the past. And that’s certainly what’s been implemented in this monument. It’s for people who went to residential schools to come here and reflect and heal, and to so many of us who have not been directly affected anywhere learn from the experience of these elders and people who have had this experience in their lives not self-induced, but forced to have it.