Blue Quills Residential School Ground Search: An interview with Dr. Sherri Chisan

This past April, the results of the phase 1 search at Blue Quills were shared in ceremony with the community. The search was led by Dr. Kisha Supernant from the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology. Her team’s summary of the phase 1 search is publicly available on Blue Quills website.

When the search at Blue Quills began in the summer of 2022, they sought out an individual to coordinate the search for missing children at Blue Quills. The person they hired for this role was my sister, Terri. It was her involvement that motivated me to return home to help with the search and serve our community. Given the heavy emotional and spiritual impact of coordinating this type of search, my sister committed to serving in the role for 1 year. With her commitment ending in June 2023, Blue Quills has been actively searching for their next Indian Residential School Project Coordinator to lead the search.

I had the opportunity to interview the President of Blue Quills, Dr. Sherri Chisan, for an update on the search:

Since the phase 1 search results were released in April, what has happened since then?

We continue to work with Survivors and their descendants on identifying sites for further investigation.  We conducted a LiDAR (aerial radar) search in an area identified by Survivors (results pending). 

The Search and Rescue Dog Association of Alberta searched the grounds where the reflections of interest were identified.  However, the anticipated remains are older than anything they have worked with previously, and there were no conclusive results.  They are interested in continuing to support our work.

We also continue to conduct historical and archival research related to the operation of the BQIRS at this site since 1930-31.

What are the barriers or challenges with the search?

This is difficult work. Many people have diverging views and expectations. We approach these conversations with care and respect, inviting all perspectives. We have witnessed some beautiful healing moments for Survivors who have experienced a transformation once they actively engage in their own journeys of trauma recovery and are supported by other Survivors. 

What are the next steps for the search?

We will continue to conduct community engagement sessions with survivors, their families, and community leadership and seek a path forward that supports healing the trauma. 

We will also arrange to do ground penetrating radar in other sites identified by survivors, and our historical and archival research will continue.

Our thanks to Dr. Sherri Chisanfor providing this valuable insight about the Blue Quills ground search. Blue Quills is just one of the many ground searches underway in Canada, but it gives us a glimpse into the complexity of these types of searches.

If you’d like to support University nuxełhot’įne thaaɁehots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills, visit

About the Author

Joel Cardinal is a Néhiyaw from Saddle Lake Cree Nation and the Manager of ReconciliACTIONs at the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.