Saskatchewan RCMP have said they will work closely with the Cowessess First Nation if authorities decide to lay charges against the apparent bulldozer of their gravestones. This week, Chief Cowessess Cadmus Delorme announced the discovery of 751 anonymous graves in the community.
“We will continue to work with the FSIN and Cowessess First Nation leadership as the next steps are considered and determine whether or how they want the RCMP involved,” the RCMP wrote. Saskatchewan in a statement sent to CBC News on Friday.
This week, Delorme and the Archdiocese of Regina said they learned the site was razed by a priest in the 1960s following a dispute with the former chief.
Delorme said Cowessess members viewed the entire site as a “crime scene.” He said they will consult with alumni, other experts, the Provincial Cemeteries Act and other laws before proceeding.
“That confirmation will come with more conversations at home,” Delorme said in a message Friday. “We’re going to look into that more. ”
An archdiocesan official said he had no further information, but “we implicitly trust Chief Cadmus, the Cowessess knowledge keepers and elders on this matter.” They said the Order of Oblate Priests, which has run the school for most of its nearly 100-year history, might have more information.
Reverend Ken Thorson of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate said he would look into the bulldozer allegations, but only heard them this week.
“I do not question the memory of those in the Cowessess community who share the story, and I agree that such an act would be inexcusable, but the allegation is fairly new to me,” Thorson said in an email Friday.
Many have asked the Oblates to publish all records concerning Cowessess, Kamloops and other residential schools. Other churches released such records years ago.
The Oblates issued another statement on Friday reiterating their commitment to provide the documents at some point, subject to privacy legislation.
The RCMP statement in Saskatchewan also recognized the historic role the RCMP played in the residential school system.
“Our actions must respect the immense grief that the people of the Cowessess First Nation continue to suffer. We know that we have applied racist and discriminatory laws and policies.
Support is available for anyone affected by their residential school experience and for those triggered by the latest reports.
A national residential school crisis line has been set up to provide support to survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419. A Saskatchewan-based line is now available by calling 306-522-7494.