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Burial Ground Re-Consecrated

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      SEPTEMBER 30 1975      v05 n17 p06  
Battleford, Sask. - The reconsecration of the Anglican cemetery connected with the Battleford Industrial School was recently marked with a special ceremony.

A cairn has been erected bearing plaques identifying the cemetery and containing the names of 50 persons known to be buried there.

Five anthropology students from the University of Saskatchewan have restored an abandoned Anglican cemetery connected with the old Battleford Industrial School.

The school, a federal residential institution for Indian children was operated from 1883 to 1914 under the administration of the Anglican Church. Before housing the school, the building contained the offices of the territorial capital and the cemetery may have been in use before the school opened and after it closed.

Seventy-four people, most of them students who attended the school, are buried in the cemetery, although records have been found for only some 50 of them.

Working under an Opportunities for Youth grant, the University students restored the cemetery to ensure that it is preserved as a permanent landmark and an important part of the Province's heritage.

The restoration is regarded as an example of a desirable alternative to abandonment, destruction and desecration, which often happens to early burial grounds, particularly those belonging to native Canadians.

The restored cemetery was rededicated at a special ceremony planned on Sunday, August 31, 1975.

A cairn has been erected bearing plaques identifying the cemetery and containing the names of the people known to be buried there and space for any other names that come to light.

The Saskatchewan Department of Tourism and Renewable Resources is installing an historic sites plaque.

The students who carried out the restoration are Marlyss Anderson of Naicam, Dianne Carlson of Saskatoon, Joan Beggs of Weyburn, Jane Plosz of Canora, and Jean Prentice of Abbey.

Professor Patrick Hartney, a human biologist with the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, was consultant for the project, which was conducted with the co-operation of representatives of the Indian Cultural Centre, the Anglican Diocese, the Battlefords community, the Oblate Order, and the Saskatchewan Archives, and with the approval of the Office of the Attorney General.

The main objective of the project was to delineate the boundaries of the cemetery and identify the individuals buried there.

The land apparently was never legally registered as a cemetery and long ago became dilapidated and was subjected to vandalism.

However, based on archival research, surface examination and excavation, the students mapped the area and erected a chain-link fence marking the boundaries.

Gravestone Each unmarked grave was identified, assigned a number and excavated and the contents were uncovered, identified and recorded. The graves and their contents were covered over again and a marble marker with a burial identification number was placed at each gravesite.

Officiating at the ceremony were: Right Reverend D. A. Ford, Bishop of Saskatoon; Dr. D. Whitbread of North Battleford; Rev. D. Wooden of St. Paul's Anglican Church, North Battleford; and Rev. D. McLean of St. George's Anglican Church, Batleford.

The ceremony opened with the singing of two hymns. "For ever with the Lord" and "Shall we gather at the River", after which the congregation processed around the cemetery chanting a Litany.

Gathering around the cairn "The Lord's My Shepherd" was sung and a former student of the school, James Buller of North Battleford, sang two hymns to the tune of "Amazing Grace" in Cree.

Edwin Semaganis of Poundmaker Indian Reserve, representing the Indian people said to Bishop Ford, "Reverend Father in God, we beg you to re-consecrate this ground, which has been for a long time a burial ground for our people."

Bishop Ford replied, "By virtue of our sacred office, we do set apart this ground, and, marking it with the symbol of our most holy faith, hereby re-consecrate it as the resting place of the bodies of the faithful."

Facing the commemoration cairn, Bishop Ford said, "In the faith of Jesus Christ, and in remembrance of all who have been buried in this graveyard and in thankfulness to those who have restored it, we dedicate this cairn, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

This was followed by the reading of the Scripture in both Cree and English.

The Scripture lesson, Revelation of St. John the Divine 21:1-7, was read in Cree by Mr. Charlie Soonias of Red Pheasant Indian Reserve, and in English by Rev. G. Zimmer of the Oblate Order of the Roman Catholic Church at St. Charles Scholasticate.

Prayers were offered by Mrs. Annie Stone of Mosquito Indian Reserve on behalf of all those present and Miss Carlson of the OFY group also gave her blessings.

In his closing address, Bishop Ford made reference to the purpose of the ceremony, saying the burial ground had been re-dedicated, blessed and hallowed.

Burial grounds Burial grounds