Indigenous community members are pushing for greater awareness not just about the sites of former residential schools in Canada, but other historic areas used for burial as well.
Chief Calvin Bruneau of the Papaschase First Nation has raised awareness about a site that is known as the "Indian Hospital."
The Charles Camsell Building, in what is now Edmonton’s Inglewood neighbourhood, was used as a tuberculosis hospital for First Nations and Inuit patients.
“It was known as Indian Hospital because that’s where a lot of our people went back then and a lot of people came and got treated and left – but some didn’t make it back home,” he said.
Bruneau believes there are indigenous remains still buried there and has wanted ground searches for decades.
“It’s more than a belief,” Bruneau said. “We got research and documents – even a map – that shows in the southeast corner of that property where potential human remains are.”
“Either it’s covered up or human remains get moved,” he added. “I’d like to investigate there still and to see definitively if there is a cemetery still.”
“It’s a sacred site,” Bruneau added. “So we got to decide what to do with that area if we do find human remains.” This comes amid a move for an apartment complex to be built on the site.
Kisha Supernant, an archeologist and director of the University of Alberta’s Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, has used ground-penetrating radar to uncover unmarked burial locations. She is of Métis descent and is a member of the Papaschase First Nation.
“I know how common it is for there to be schools with burial places that are unmarked and potentially where the deaths are undocumented,” she shared. “Indigenous communities and families have these stories. They know that their children went missing or died."
“Sometimes we need the scientific evidence to help demonstrate that to the broader public,” she added. “I hope for a world where it is not necessary for us to have to do that. But it does help.”
In light of the Kamloops incident, Bev Esslinger, councillor for Ward 2 in Edmonton told TBT earlier in June that although previous reports indicated no burials were recorded at Charles Camsell, the city will nonetheless “be taking a more thorough examination on the remaining lands.” Figures including Chief Bruneau and appropriate anthropologists will be present at the site as scanning is set to begin this week.
Jon Dziadyk, councillor for Ward 3, also told TBT: "It is important that we explore the matter and bring closure for families who have experienced the horrific impacts of residential schools."