paula napash

Wider consultation needed before going ahead with radar search of former residential schools

WARNING: This story incorporates particulars some readers could discover distressing.

Officers from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi in northern Quebec plan to widen consultations with former college students earlier than deciding whether or not to maneuver ahead with a floor penetrating radar search of former residential faculty websites positioned on Fort George Island.

Fort George Island, which is close to present-day Chisasibi, was the location of the primary two residential faculties in Quebec — St. Philip’s Indian Residential College (Anglican), which opened in 1933, and the Fort George Roman Catholic Residential College (also called Ste. Therese de l’Enfant Jesus faculty), which opened in 1937. 

However due to fireplace and different modifications over time, there have been 5 completely different faculty websites constructed to deal with the 2 faculties between 1933 and 1981. 

Three of them have been Anglican and two have been Catholic, based on Chisasibi Deputy Chief Paula Napash, who’s the individual main the consultations. 

We have now a really distinctive and complicated scenario.– Paula Napash, Deputy Chief Chisasibi

“In Fort George, we now have a really distinctive and complicated scenario,” stated Napash. 

Floor penetrating radar was used earlier this yr to find unmarked graves at former residential faculties resembling Kamloops Indian Residential College in B.C. and the Marieval Indian Residential College in Saskatchewan, amongst others.

Paula Napash is the Deputy Chief of Chisasibi and the one who is main the session. (submitted by Paula Napash)

Native help

Consultations have been held regionally in Chisasibi in November and nearly all of survivors needed to maneuver ahead with a floor penetrating radar search on Fort George Island within the wake of the discoveries of unmarked graves, stated Napash.

“It opened previous wounds, however it additionally affected them deeply,” stated Napash, including many recall seeing issues on the faculty or listening to tales and actually desirous to know the reality. 

“[For many] it was like beginning over once more of their therapeutic journey … that is why it is so delicate,” stated Napash.

There was additionally settlement that survivors who attended the Fort George Island faculties from different communities additionally wanted to be consulted earlier than a call was made. 

“We had college students from all around the coast of James Bay, Hudson Bay and even Ontario,” stated Napash.

College students from throughout

She stated college students got here from locations resembling Albany, Attawapiskat, Moosonee in Ontario, in addition to Mashteuiatsh (Pointe-Bleue), and different Cree communities resembling Eastmain, Whapmagoostui (Nice Whale), Wemindji (Outdated Manufacturing facility River, Paint Hills) Waskaganish (Rupert Home) and Nemaska and others.

We do not wish to exclude anybody. Fort George was their house too.– Paula Napash, Deputy Chief Chisasibi

“We do not wish to exclude anybody. Fort George was their house too. They have been a part of the group,” stated Napash. She stated she can be reaching out to band councils in these communities quickly, to map out a means ahead. 

Fort George Island was the unique townsite for Chisasibi individuals earlier than they have been compelled to relocate within the early Eighties due to hydroelectric growth. 

The Nationwide Centre for Reality and Reconciliation has data that there are the stays of 16 former college students buried on Fort George Island. 

chisasibi survivor gathering november 2021
A November, 2021, gathering of residential faculty survivors in Chisasibi, Que. The vast majority of native survivors consulted stated they wish to see floor penetrating radar used on the location of the primary two residential faculties in Quebec on Fort George Island, close to Chisasibi. (Fort George Residential College organizing committee/ Reggie D. Tomatuk)

The faculties, cemeteries and residences constructed by way of the years on Fort George Island have been all in numerous places, in some areas they’re now coated in sand, particles, timber and in some circumstances, even cabins, stated Napash.

“It is not a flat floor,” stated Napash, including they’re additionally consulting with specialists to look into different know-how in addition to floor penetrating radar which may present a extra full image of what’s beneath the bottom.

Napash is in contact with specialists within the know-how, together with the radar specialist who performed the search on the Kamloops Indian Residential College, Sarah Beaulieu, who can be an teacher on the College of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C.

Napash stated Chisasibi officers are additionally nonetheless investigating tales of different potential websites linked to the colleges on Fort George Island.


Help is accessible for anybody affected by the consequences of residential faculties, and people who are triggered by the newest studies.

The Cree Board of Well being and Social Companies of James Bay operates the Wiichihiiwaauwin (Psychological Well being Helpline) at 1-833-632-4357. Help is accessible in Cree 24/7.

The Indian Residential College Survivors Society (IRSSS) might be contacted toll-free at 1-800-721-0066.

A nationwide Indian Residential College Disaster Line has been set as much as present help for former college students and people affected. Individuals can entry emotional and disaster referral providers by calling the 24-hour nationwide disaster line: 1-866-925-4419.


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