It took just four days for Star Andreas to find success in her campaign to see a statue of Father Joseph Hugonard removed from the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cemetery in Lebret, Sask.
Hugonard was the first principal of the Qu’Appelle Industrial school, which was built in 1884.
“Yesterday I got a call from the archbishop and he said they’ll be removing the statue which is awesome,” she said last Friday.
“But our work isn’t done yet. Now let’s go find our children.”
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, which owns the statue, and Chief Michael Starr of Star Blanket First Nation, which donated the statue to the Sacred Heart parish in 1998, confirmed to Global News that discussions are underway about how to move the statue. The Lebret museum has been suggested as a destination.
Andreas set up camp near the statue on Monday, June 7 with the goal of staying on-site until the statue was taken down or moved.
The Peepeekisis Cree Nation woman says she was first told about the existence of the statue at last Monday’s vigil for the 215 children found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. She travelled to Lebret Wednesday to see the statue for herself.
“I thought, oh my God, there’s that Hugonard hugging two native kids in their traditional wear, and yet we weren’t allowed to wear our traditional wear in schools,'” Andreas said.
As noted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “on their arrival at residential school, students often were required to exchange the clothes they were wearing for school-supplied clothing.
“This could mean the loss of homemade clothing that was of particular value and meaning to them.”
Andreas says that while she began her stay in a “little kids’ ladybug tent,” support quickly grew for her campaign.
“The church was behind me, the archbishop was behind me, the Chief and Elders, all the people were behind me,” she said. “I’d also like to thank the supporters who came out and brought food. We even had a pipe ceremony.”
Andreas said she cried when she heard from the archbishop that the statue was going to be removed from the cemetery, but added that she “still didn’t feel satisfied.”
She’s now calling for a search of the site of the former Qu’Appelle Industrial School for unmarked graves.
“It’s not done yet. We have to bring our kids home.”
Speaking to Global Regina Thursday, Chief Starr said he supports the decision to move the statue.
“My indication from what Archbishop Donald Bolen has indicated to me is that they are in the process of getting all of us to a complete understanding that it will be removed,” he said.
He added that discussions are planned about exploring the site of the former school with ground-penetrating radar.
“We are going to be meeting Monday, June 14, with our chief and council to have a good discussion on how to proceed.”
Leonard Bush, Chair of the Sacred Heart Parish council, told Global News that Andreas’ campaign to see the statue removed from the cemetery didn’t meet much opposition.
“Father Hugonard — I’ve never heard anything bad about him, but I understand the statue is a painful memory,” Bush said over the phone Saturday.
An Archdiocese spokesperson confirmed that all of the above parties have been meeting to determine where the statue might be moved.
“The affected parties, which include the Star Blanket First Nation, the town and the church have agreed that the statue will be removed. These conversations have been greatly helped by Indigenous members of the parish in Lebret, who have been instrumental in facilitating dialogue.
“Discussions will be ongoing in the coming days to finalize the statue’s removal,” said Archdiocese of Regina Director of Communications Eric Gurash, adding that while the Lebret museum has been suggested as a destination there are some concerns the museum’s structure won’t be able to bear the statue’s weight.
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