No human remains were found in the excavation of a church basement in Pine Creek, Manitoba, which was formerly part of a residential school run by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969.  

The four-week excavation was conducted after Minegoziibe Ashinabe, a first nations tribe northwest of Winnipeg, hired a team of archaeologists to dig up the church basement following 14 abnormalities that were detected in the soil by ground-penetrating radar equipment. 

The archaeologists were from the University of Brandon and have regularly assisted police on excavations throughout Manitoba.

In his response to the dig’s results, Chief Derek Nepinak said it takes, “nothing away from the difficult truths experienced by our families who attended the residential school in Pine Creek.”

“As a community we were preparing for more than one possible outcome, which meant we would prepare for the worst but hope for the best,” said Nepinak.

Nepinak said that he knows the results of the Pine Creek excavation will further the narrative that claims alleging mass burial sites of Indigenous children who died while under the care of former residential schools are false. 

“The results of our excavation under the church should not be deemed as conclusive of other ongoing searches and efforts to identify reflections from other community processes including other (ground-penetrating radar) initiatives,” said Nepinak.

Nepinak has asked that people continue to search for truth and not compare the results of their excavation to others across Canada.

“This does not mark the end of our truth-finding project,” said Nepinak.

This isn’t the only residential school excavation that have concluded with no findings of human remains. 

In August, 2021, a team of researchers in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia conducted an excavation at the former Shubenacadie Residential School in search of clandestine burials but to no avail. 

In October of 2021, an excavation was conducted for unmarked graves on the site of former Camsell Hospital in Edmonton. The hospital used to treat Indigenous people who suffered from tuberculosis and some believed that the dig would uncover patients that had been buried there, however no such evidence was discovered.

The calls for these and other excavations at former residential schools came in early 2021 after First Nations in Kamloops, B.C. claimed that the remains of 215 children were buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School based on soil disturbances detected by radar.

The Kamloops First Nations said that they couldn’t say for sure just how many potential burials are at the school with certainty because they have no intention of conducting an excavation at the site.