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Commission: 1 in 50 never returned from Indian Residential Schools

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
View of Great Bear Lake from Deline, Northwest Territories, Canada Ellis Quinn photo

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission researcher says she has accounted for 300 deaths at residential schools across Canada's North.

Alex Maass, a research manager with the Missing Children Project, said after researching cemetery records and wading through a million documents they can now prove one out of every 50 children forced to attend Indian Residential Schools never made it home.

However, she says the records are still incomplete and in some cases they've been able to show they are not accurate.

She said the official records don't account for all of the children's bodies in the schools' cemeteries, and added the problem is evident at Northern schools like the one at Fort Providence in Canada's Northwest Territories.

"There's a very large cemetery associated with the Fort Providence school that is estimated to have close to 300 individuals in it — most of them are children," she said.

"It doesn't match up. What we see on the ground doesn't match with the documentation."

Maass said most of the children died from disease, however she said there were also many accidental deaths attributed to drownings, fires or other accidents.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.