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Kapawe’no FN: IRS – Phase 1 Ground-Penetrating Radar Search at Grouard Mission

Press Release

Before reading further, this summary contains information related to unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools. This information is unsettling for most people. If you are experiencing trauma or feeling triggered, help is available 24/7 for survivors and their families through the Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419. Mental health support for Indigenous peoples across the land we call Canada is available through the Hope for Wellness chatline at 1-800-721-0066 or using the chat box at https://www.hopeforwellness.ca/.

Before discussing the results of the survey, it is important to recognize that ground-penetrating radar is a geophysical technique that identifies changes in the physical properties of the subsurface, and is therefore not a foolproof method of detecting unmarked graves as it relies on specialized knowledge of data interpretation. Please note, a negative result from a remote sensing survey (including ground penetrating radar) does not mean that there are no graves in a particular location; it only means that further analysis or study is needed to confirm, especially if Survivor testimony, oral history, or archival research suggests otherwise,

The team from the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta, led by Dr. Kisha Supernant, conducted 6 days of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) work around the site of St. Bernard’s Indian Residential School at Grouard, AB at the request of Kapawe ‘no First Nation. The following is a summary of our findings that accompanies a detailed report provided to the Chief and Council.

Overall, we used GPR to survey more areas than initially proposed for Phase 1, as data collection progressed quickly. In total, we searched 3696.5m2 (or nearly one acre) of land around St. Bernard’s Indian Residential School using the Canadian Archaeological Association’s established best practices for single-channel GPR data collection when searching for unmarked graves. The GPR survey was conducted in four general areas separated into 15 individual grids, according to the Phase I plan and final report. These areas were identified through engagements with survivors and community members in August of 2021 and through discussions with Kapawe’no First Nation Chief and Council. The GPR worked differently across the 15 grids, with some grids providing clear results and others less reliable results. This is likely the result of previous building projects and ground disturbance in the area, differences in soil conductivity, and possible groundwater. The collected data was compared to results from known graves in the immediate area. Besides GPR, we also collected images from drone flights over the community cemetery and in the field to the south of the cemetery. These images were analyzed to see if any areas of interest are able to be detected through multi-spectral imagery, as there was some indication that there could be more graves outside of the existing cemetery fence. Since this kind of imaging is best done during the height of growth (usually July or August), the multi-spectral imagery that we collected did not provide any additional information besides creating a clear map of the marked graves that are already known or visible on the surface in the cemetery.

Read More: https://www.kapaweno.com/single-post/irs-phase1

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