If you are a residential school survivor, you are able to contact the 24-hour National Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419 for support. Indigenous people can also access the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

Grassy Narrows First Nation will soon begin its search for unmarked gravesites at the former McIntosh Residential School near Vermilion Bay.

McIntosh School

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller says Grassy Narrows will see $157,281 to support the first phase of the First Nation’s work to find, commemorate and memorialize unmarked grave sites at the former school.

“We are proud to act in the role of trustees of this site that carries so much history for our people, and are conducting the important work of locating unmarked graves as part of our role as trustees,” says Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief, Randy Fobister.

“The stories of our members that attended McIntosh tell us that there are numerous unmarked gravesites there. The funding and assistance will ensure that the work to identify such gravesites can move forward as quickly as possible.”

The McIntosh Residential School was located about 30 kilometres northwest of Vermilion Bay and was in operation between 1925 and 1969. In 1965, its main building was destroyed by a fire. Students relocated, before the school closed its doors four years later.

McIntosh School

Reports show that students from Lac Seul, Wabigoon, Grassy Narrows, One Man’s Lake and Wabaseemoong all attended the school, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Records from the Red Lake Regional Heritage Centre, which are noted to likely be incomplete, show that at least 25 students passed away while attending the school between 1941 and 1949. Causes of death are listed for only 10 students, with 9 of them allegedly dying from tuberculosis. The tenth is listed as “get drown”.

“Having attended McIntosh Residential School from age 5 to 14, the memories are still with me and many other fellow students,” said Elder and former Grassy Narrows Chief, Arnold Pelly. “But we also can’t forget the students who did not return home. We will look for our children. We will find them. We will bring them home."

Grassy Narrows says they will be working with families from the area in order to commemorate and memorialize their losses and the children’s final resting place. They also plan to provide wellness supports for survivors, families and the community.

“The history of residential schools in Canada is a tragic one. It is important that Canadians never lose sight of what happened,” adds Chief Fobister.

“Once this work is complete, we will take steps to commemorate and memorialize the children that died while attending McIntosh Residential School so that they will always be remembered. Our community will also follow traditional practices that include traditional ceremonies and long-term wakes to help our community to move on and finally put these children to rest.”

Nationally, Canada operated over 150 Indian Residential Schools for over 140 years. The last residential school in Canada, the Gordon Residential School in Saskatchewan, closed its doors in 1996.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly taken from their homes and forced to attend the schools and assimilate into settler culture, which included giving youth new names, haircuts and identification numbers.

The federal government pledged more than $320 million to search residential school sites last year. Ontario later pledged another $20 million over a three-year span to identify, investigate and commemorate all 18 residential school burial sites across the province.

“While most Canadians have only recently become aware of the impacts of residential schools and of the many children who never returned home, these are truths the residents of Grassy Narrows and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities have lived with for generations,” adds Minister Miller.

“I encourage all Canadians to take the time to reflect and learn about the history and legacy of the residential school system. Education is key to building understanding and to moving us closer to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.”

You can find a collection of photos from the McIntosh Residential School site HERE.