Memorial Unveiled for four students of the Red Deer Industrial School whose graves were previously unmarked: Jane Baptiste, Georgina House, David Lightning, Sarah Soosay. Photo: Red Deer Advocate
On Thursday, September 28, the Remembering the Children Society hosted the unveiling of a memorial to remember four teenagers who died at the Red Deer Industrial School in 1918. It was a residential school run by the Methodist church, now part of The United Church of Canada. Many people from Red Deer, Maskwacis, Saddle Lake, and surrounding areas witnessed this time of lament and healing.
During the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, the staff and students of the Red Deer Industrial School were so sick that the city undertaker needed to be called to attend to the burial of four children in the Red Deer City Cemetery rather than the residential school cemetery. The graves were unmarked. The Red Deer Industrial School had one of the highest mortality rates of any school in Canada. The names of the children buried at the Red Deer Cemetery are: David Lightning, Georgina House, Sarah Soosay, and Jane Baptiste. They are believed to be from Samson Cree Nation and perhaps from Paul Nation. Family members of only one of the children have been found – that of David Lightning – and his nephew, Richard Lightning, is the current President of the Society.
You’ll also find the Red Deer Advocate’s coverage and video of the Memorial Service HERE
Photos below by Cecile Fausak. Please click on a photo to see each image in a larger format.
Beginning to unveil the memorial for four teenagers who died at the Red Deer Industrial School in November 1918 during the Spanish Flu epidemic. Lindsay Thurber High School students Mari-Rose Keewatin Marcellus and Madeline Price assisted with the unveiling.
Memorial stone to remember Jane Baptiste, Sarah Soosay, Georgina House, and David Lightning was unveiled by Lindsay Thurber High School students Mari-Rose Keewatin Richards and Madeline Price. Big Voice Drummers sang the victory song.Flowers laid with love from the United Church of Canada.
The star blanket was provided by Richard Lightning to the right, nephew of David Lightning, one of the four commemorated. LIndsay Thurber High School students Mari-Rose Keewatin Richards and Madeline Price assisted with the unveiling.
Chief Randy Ermineskin, Ermineskin First Nation welcomed us to Treaty 6 territory. He had only recently learned that his uncle, David Lightning, was one of the four youth being remembered this day.
Lyle Keewatin Richards remembers the day in 1987 that Albert Lightning came to him in the Red Deer Museum, and said to him, “You’re the one who is going to help me find my brother. Albert was searching for David who died at the Red Deer Industrial School. Alberta and David attended the school together.
Treaty 6 Grand Chief and Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Dr. Wilton Littlechild welcomes the crowd of 200, including about 70 youth from Red Deer Schools, and speaks of the importance of the pipe ceremony held, and freeing the spirits of the childre
Stephen Kakfwi quotes Bob Dylan “Take me far from the crazy reach of sorrow”, and notes how the Northern LIghts on Wed. night were the spirits of the children and ancestors dancing.”They have danced the streets of heaven and touched the face of God.”
Stephen Kakfwi, President of Canadians for a New Partnership, Red Deer MLAs Kim Schreiner and Barb Miller, Red Deer City Mayor Tara Veer(orange jacket, grey pants), United Church Alberta and Northwest Conference Executive Secretary Shannon McCarthy, and Remembering the Children Society Board Director Sharon Pasula (foreground-“Every Child Matters” T shirt were welcome participants.
Former Red Deer Mayor and Director of Museum Morris Flewwelling spoke of the importance of education about residential schools. He was an Honorary Witness appointed at the TRC hearing in Red Deer in 2013.
Uta Fox (in foreground) wrote a thesis called “The Failure of the Red Deer Industrial School” has now been posted online. She also continues to live out her role as an Honorary Witness at the Red Deer TRC hearing in 2013. You can find her thesis here: https://www.armacanada.org/index.php/resources-knowledge/documents2/canadian-rim/281-the-failure-of-the-red-deer-industrial-school/file
Don Hepburn (in front) was a project leader in the Sunnybrook United Church over the years to do research, recover the RDIS cemetery, build relationships with First Nations and the Metis Nation, and remember the children.
Gathered for the pipe ceremony. The memorial is draped with a star blanket