We Are All Treaty People

OTC at Montreal National Gathering on Unmarked Burials

  • Published - 12/09/2023
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  • Posted By - OTC
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A team of student mentors and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner director of Research and Archives traveled to Montreal to attend the National Gathering on Unmarked Burials.

“These conferences are never easy, but it has to be done and the education and conversations that come from it are why we do it,” said Morgan Esperance, a member of the research and archives team.

The conference featured survivors sharing their truths, leaders speaking on processes, researchers about the work of accessing residential school records, and the Special Interlocuter for Missing Children and Unmarked Graves and Burial Sites, Kimberly Murray.

Community leaders talked about what steps they took and what their process looked like when searching and dealing with unmarked graves. Journalist Tanya Talaga spoke of her experience searching for her great, great grandmother, including inconsistent information, name misspelling in documents, and barriers with access to information and privacy laws.

Survivors told personal stories, including their experiences searching for missing siblings who never returned from residential school. In some cases, people have found missing loved ones, and they were able to put in a gravestone and have closure, for many others the search continues.

“One man shared his story for the first time ever it was amazing. His partner stood behind him the whole time and he fell into her arms when he finished. It was powerful and beautiful to watch him let that go,” Esperance said.

OTC team members overcame emotion to ask questions and learn as much as possible about Unmarked Burials, the research being done, and the kind of support needed.

Following the event, the team debriefed with one another.

“We all talked together about how we were feeling and laid some tobacco down and said a prayer, so we could move forward in a good and healthy way after the emotional two days,” said Eli Worme, a student who works with the research and archives team.

Healing is a continuing journey for residential school survivors and the for those that are faced with the painful legacy. The OTC thanks survivors that have the courage to share their story and stands in solidarity with all survivors and their families.

If you are a Survivor and need emotional support, a national crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Residential School Survivor Support Line: 1-866-925-4419