'We can now speak our truth': Former residential school on Muskowekwan First Nation named national historic site

A former residential school, which is still standing on the Muskowekwan First Nation in Saskatchewan, has been named a national historic site by the federal government.

The Muscowequan Indian Residential School, located on Muskowekwan First Nation, is the last standing residential school in Saskatchewan and was one of the last residential schools to close in Canada when it shut its doors in 1997. At least 35 unmarked graves have been found on the residential school grounds since the 1990s.

The announcement was made by Jonathan Wilkinson, the federal minister responsible for Parks Canada, on Thursday. Muskowekwan First Nation worked with Parks Canada to share the stories of residential school survivors and “determine the historic values of the site.”

“Far too long, our survivors have lived through this dark history without recognition but today marks a new era of reconciliation and learning,” Muskowekwan First Nation Chief Reginald Bellerose said in a press release.

“We can now speak our truth and have a building that will tell our story from our perspective.”

Parks Canada said national historic designations mark both positive and negative aspects of Canadian history.

The government said designating residential schools as national historic sites align with Call to Action 79 of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which calls on the federal government to develop a “reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration.”

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If you are a residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419, or the Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll free line at 1-800-721-0066.