A residential school cemetery outside of Regina has received provincial heritage property status. It’s Saskatchewan’s 51st heritage property.
Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Ken Cheveldayoff formally designated the site on Pinkie Road Wednesday morning.
More than 500 Indigenous children attended the school on the site and approximately 35 students were laid to rest on the land in unmarked graves.
The Regina Indian Industrial School operated between 1891 and 1910. When it closed, the building served as a jail and later a home for delinquent boys. It was destroyed by a fire in 1948.
Regina city council voted last September to grant the site municipal heritage status.
Janine Windolph is the President of the Regina Indian Industrial School Commemorative Association (RIIS). She says with more attention paid to this site, more people will learn from these events.
“Over the years, since I started coming here,” Windolph said at the ceremony. “It feels like it is slowly lifting and that now it will become a place of light and positive energy.”
Windolph says her group now wants to focus on getting the land recognized by the federal government, adding that will take about two years. So she says RIIS plans to work on smaller projects.
“And some of the simpler steps we want to take is to fix the fence,” Windolph said. “To extend it, so the six bodies that are on the outside can be within the fence. And to put some sort of a signage here. So they are simple actions, but they are actions that have lots of meaning.”
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Heather Bear says her community cares deeply for the children buried at the site.
“They deserved better than to be buried away from their families in unmarked graves. Though their names may be lost to us now, by preserving and protecting the lands on which they’re buried, we ensure they will not be forgotten.”