Chief says local children among residential school casualties
Although its been decades, memories the of Holy Angels Indian Residential School still haunt Allan Adam.
The Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, was among generations of children enrolled in the local residential school, one of the last institutions of its kind to close in Canada, ending operations in 1974.
Adam says the residential school still casts a painful shadow over dozens of local families.
"Probably the worst ones that ever came out in regards to all of the concerns that were out there, in regards to sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, it was always there, in previous years it was even recorded that there was death involved in the whole situation, and families weren't notified of their kids passing away whatsoever," said Adam.
This week, the Ontario Coroner apologized for their role in the death of First Nations children who passed away in residential schools, often buried in unmarked graves, unbeknownst to their parents.
Their recent inquest has uncovered hundreds of undocumented deaths, and its suspected their could be thousands more who succumbed to the poor conditions, chronic abuse or were driven to suicide.
The investigation says the mortality often reached 50 per cent at the institutions which delivered an assault on First Nations for decades.
Adam says local children are among the causalities and its too late to provide closure for families whose children were buried far from home, years ago.
"The memories will be still there within the elders, you know the older ones that it happened too, even from my family's side, my mother said that one of her sisters was killed at the residential school, and her dad was only notified a year later when he came to visit, and he said where's the girl and they told him then that she passed away," said Adam.
Adam says his grandfather died without ever getting answers about his daughter's mysterious death in Fort Smith, adding that he's heard dozens of similar stories from families across his remote community.
Adam was enrolled at Holy Angels at the age of six, and remained there for nearly two years, despite attempting to escape numerous times. Nuns reportedly visited his mother's house and said he would be forced into provincial custody, if he wasn't sent to the nearby boarding school.
Adam's brother eventually evaded his caretakers, hoping on a bus home. His return prompted Adam's father to remove him from the mission shortly before Christmas eve, and the Chief still remembers the relief and joy he felt that night.
Adam says the apologies of government are less than sincere, and ring hollow for survivors and their families.