Catholic Church providing $70,000 to identify unmarked graves in Cowessess Cemetery
Published Monday, June 3, 2019 6:58PM CST Last Updated Monday, June 3, 2019 7:01PM CST
The Catholic Church is taking steps to try and mend a complicated history with Cowessess First Nation.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina has invested $70,000 to help identify unmarked grades, and add fences and trees in the Cowessess Cemetery.
Lloyd Lerat has family in the cemetery but he does not know where all of them are buried.
“I have grandparents on my father’s side and my mother’s side, and I know they're there somewhere but I’ve never ever had the chance to see, or know, where they are,” said Lerat.
Now, many of the graves in the cemetery are unmarked. But according to Lerat it was not always that way.
“All the headstones were removed,” said Lerat. “I know the workers who were working here. They were the ones that picked them all up.”
Donald Bolen, the Archbishop of Regina, hopes the funding can help meet some of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“Calls to action 73 to 75 specifically call for churches that were involved in residential schools to become engaged in precisely that kind of work,” said Bolen.
Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme said this project is a positive step towards reconciliation.
“This is showing our kids that we can overcome and move forward,” said Delorme.
The church has a complicated history with Cowessess First Nation. Many residents—including Lerat—were forced to go to a residential school that was located on land that became part of Cowessess.
There was also a catholic church at Cowessess that burnt down in November of 2018. Some of the funding for the cemetery is the insurance money from that fire.
Denise Pelletier also has family in the cemetery and welcomes the funding.
“To actually know where they are, to go and stand and be able to talk to them, that's the troubling part,” she said. “They could not be there. I could be visiting somebody else.”
The project will use old records to identify the remains and provide a map and a monument to the people buried in the Cowessess Cemetery.
With files from CTV’s Nathaniel Dove