WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
Cowessess First Nation received $10,000 in donations from a group in Regina this week, to help in their search for unmarked graves on the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan.
The donations were fundraised by the Jaleta Pacers Running Club in Regina and presented to Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme on Wednesday.
Chief Delorme said it is the largest donation to the search for unmarked graves in Cowessess so far, according to Ted Jaleta, who leads the Pacers.
Jaleta says he hopes the group's donation helps those involved in a traumatic search.
As an immigrant himself, he felt he had to do something about the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools.
"I thought the least I could do with my friends [is] just to let them know, 'we are here with you — you are not alone,'" he said. "We share your pain, your grief."
The running club, which currently has about 45 active members, had to cancel its annual Royal Road Race event this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant the club had some extra money, which went toward the donation to Cowessess, Jaleta told CBC.
Cowessess, a First Nation about 140 kilometres east of Regina, began a search last month for unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School.
The First Nation announced a preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a site's cemetery — the largest such discovery to date.
Other Saskatchewan First Nations have also started searches for unmarked graves at residential school sites since May, when Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C. announced its preliminary finding of more than 200 unmarked burial sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School site.
The Jaleta Pacers Running Club are not new to raising funds for humanitarian causes. Past recipients of their fundraising efforts include Inclusion Regina, the North Central Family Centre and KidSport Regina.
Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential school and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Do you have information about unmarked graves, children who never came home or residential school staff and operations? Email your tips to CBC's new Indigenous-led team investigating residential schools: WhereAreThey@cbc.ca.