"Lloyd Lerat still remembers the day in the early 1960s when workers came to remove headstones from a section of the cemetery in Cowessess First Nation, Sask., that is now covered with tiny flags marking spots left by a ground-penetrating radar survey that the nation says found evidence of 751 unmarked graves.vivors offer clues to who may be buried in cemetery next to Marieval residential school."
Lloyd Lerat still remembers the day in the early 1960s when workers came to remove headstones from a section of the cemetery in Cowessess First Nation, Sask., that is now covered with tiny flags marking spots left by a ground-penetrating radar survey that the nation says found evidence of 751 unmarked graves.
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A student at Marieval Indian Residential School at the time, Lerat, 72, said he and other children heard a hubbub of activity coming from the cemetery near the school, located about 164 kilometres east of Regina. They saw workers and a truck removing headstones and wooden crosses. Several stories have surfaced in the community about what happened to the grave markers, and they all agree on one thing: a priest ordered their removal in the early 1960s. But no one story explains why, and officials from the Catholic Church, which ran the school until the late 1960s, have not been able to confirm the account or explain why either. A similar uncertainty shrouds the identities and precise location of those buried in this section of cleared cemetery now at the centre of national attention, with some former students suggesting the majority of the 751 gravesites do not contain the remains of children from the residential school. Nevertheless, early Catholic mission records obtained by CBC News, along with the testimony of elders from the community who attended Marieval residential school, help shed some light on who could be buried there. The records and testimony also suggest the Catholic Church has additional documents with some of the names connected to these unmarked graves. Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said that, according to local oral history, up to 75 per cent of the interred are children who attended Marieval residential school, which was run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. "But I can't confirm that," he said in an interview with CBC News. The Cowessess discovery sent shock waves across a country still reeling from the findings revealed three weeks earlier of another ground survey that identified 200 potential unmarked graves in an old apple orchard near a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.