Blue Quills Indian Residential School
Missing Children in Unmarked Burials Investigation
History and Relevant Facts
The Saddle Lake Blue Quills Site was in operation from 1898-1931. The Site was called Sacred Heart Residential School. At that time, it was in Chief Blue Quills side of the reserve, pre-amalgamation. During this period, it was nicknamed Blue Quills, due to it being on the Blue Quills Reserve.
From the records we obtained, we can confidently state, that, there was mostly Saddle Lake Band Members who attended this site, that were classified as catholic denomination. The members who were classified as Protestant, did not go to Residential School at that time. Protestants, attended Day School.
The Site came to Saddle Lake from Lac La Biche. Prior to the institutions arrival, the children of Blue Quills Reserve, were shipped off by Dog Sled to Notre Dame Mission, from 1890-1898.
Many people today, do not know that there was a residential school at the Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery. As per the TRC report, Missing Children and Unmarked Burials, every residential School property had:
and a Residential School.
The Sacred Heart Parish, relocated to the Agency in 1959. The School was burnt down by former students shortly after the Government of Canada moved it near St. Paul. All that is left at the site, is the Cemetery.
Investigation Findings to date
The Investigation Team, has been working behind the scenes, daily, with archives, repositories, and informational witnesses. The Witnesses, are people in the community who accidentally excavated unmarked graves on the site.
This first became a starting point in the Summer of 2021, when the Survivors were planning the Investigation, and they started exchanging stories of people, or in certain instances, when they themselves accidentally excavated skeletal remains in the Sacred heart Cemetery.
These Survivor Stories, then lead the investigation to the excavator operators, who volunteer supporting families when finding plots to bury their membership. This is when the major information started flooding in.
The Survivors wanted to have the First Memorial Round Dance, to honour the children, and Survivors that have since passed, prior to any more in-depth investigating. When a Memorial Round Dance is decided, you cannot just have 1. You have to have 4 consecutive back to back Round Dances each year for 4 consecutive years..The Survivors decided to host all 4 Round Dances in St. Paul, to ensure they can happen without postponement. The Round Dance had a Pipe Ceremony, a feast, a traditional memorial for the children, Survivor honouring ceremony and a give-away.
Following the Round Dance, the investigation team diverted focus to documentation. This documentation investigation is on going, and will be for many years to come, as we sift through tens of thousands of pages.
Sacred Heart Residential School (Blue Quills) Saddle Lake site. In operation from 1898-1931
Former Sacred Heart Residential School students. Young boys in at the Sacred Heart Residential School. If you recognize anyone, please contact us so we can name them.
The First Sacred Heart Parish. The photo is the grand opening of the Church in Saddle Lake in 1893.The Church, was rebuilt twice, since this photo was taken.