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Radar search finds more than 2,000 anomalies at Saskatchewan residential school site

January 12, 2023

More work needs to be done to determine what exactly the ground-penetrating radar has found at the former Lebret Indian Industrial School site.

Toronto Star: A Saskatchewan First Nation says a ground-penetrating radar search at a former residential school has revealed more than 2,000 anomalies, while a physical search also found what is believed to be a child’s jawbone fragment that is more than 100 years old.

More work needs to be done to determine what exactly the radar has found.

Star Blanket Cree Nation Chief Michael Starr was joined by ground search leader Sheldon Poitras in Lebret, Sask., on Thursday to speak of their findings, which took place at the former Lebret Indian Industrial School site.

The school opened in 1884 and closed in 1998, making it one of the last residential schools to close. 

“In just Phase 1, which is just the open area around the site itself, we acquired over 2,000 confirmed hits … does that mean there’s 2,000 unmarked graves? We don’t think so. Because there’s anomalies,” Poitras said “Now we have to come up with a strategy on how we’re going to determine what’s a stone, what’s a piece of wood, what’s gravel, or what might actually be” remains, he added. 

During his presentation, Poitras said the search also revealed the existence of underground rooms, and that local security personnel found a jawbone fragment in proximity to the site. 

Poitras said the jawbone fragment was analyzed by the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Office and was determined to be about 125 years old and belonging to a child between four and six. “That brings us back to about 1898. So this is physical evidence, physical proof, of an unmarked grave,” he said. 

Chief Starr called the findings unprecedented. 

“This discovery has changed everything. It’s changed the things that we’re going to do. It’s changed our mindset, it’s changed our way of life in a way.”

More to come…

Omar Mosleh is an Edmonton-based reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @OmarMosleh