Brandon Indian Residential School Cemeteries Project
This content may be distressing or triggering of traumatic experiences. If you are affected, please contact someone for support. The following telephone lines are available 24 hours a day for emotional and counselling support and crisis referral if needed.
- National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) Residential School Crisis Line: 1 866 925 4419
- Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) Emergency Crisis Line: 1 800 721 0066
The Brandon Indian Residential School Cemeteries Project is one of Canada's first collaborative projects to embark on an in-depth research investigation into unmarked graves associated with a residential school.
Academic research into the Brandon Indian Residential School (Brandon IRS) burial grounds officially began in 2012. Sioux Valley Dakota Nation Chief and Council and landowners of a portion of the school property collaborated with Katherine Nichols, who at the time was a Master’s student at the University of Manitoba, and is now a PhD candidate at Simon Fraser University. In April 2019, the team received a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The project is being led by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation—and is supported by partners and collaborators at Simon Fraser University, Brandon University, and the University of Windsor.
The research was collaboratively designed to address cultural concerns and identify appropriate techniques to investigate unmarked graves and missing children. The project uses a variety of methods—including archival research, interviews, and archaeological and forensic search techniques—to address Survivors’ accounts of unmarked graves and reconcile the number of possible graves with the number of children who were recorded to have died.
Currently, we are working to identify affected communities whose children may be buried in the Brandon IRS cemeteries. By working collaboratively to establish a path forward, we aim to restore dignity and honour to these children and their gravesites, in the ways and desires of their communities.
Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is actively working to change this site from a place of pain to a place of healing, and has plans to develop an Indigenous focused healing lodge and addictions treatment centre. As stewards of the land, Sioux Valley Dakota Nation is committed to finding and protecting the schools’ cemeteries and unmarked graves.
Annual Survivor gatherings hosted by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on the former school site have been important occasions for grass roots conversations. Beginning in 2015, the events provide space and support for Survivors and families to share their stories, with ceremonies and feasts. There are also opportunities for those affected by the school to discuss the complexities and sensitivities of potential unmarked graves.
Thank you for your patience while we build a larger, more in-depth project website. We hope to share more information and updates about our work in the near future.
Katherine Nichols (SFU), Kim Figura (BCIT), Darian Kennedy (BU), Dayle Blackbird (BU)
24/7 support and additional information about the Brandon IRS project