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Thursday, March 23, 2023

After gravesite was flooded out, Trent student wanted to do right for ’60s Scoop great-grandma

Family selling belongings, raising funds to install permanent marker to honour ‘amazing woman’

Some of Beatrice Commanda's descendants have joined together, determined to purchase and install a permanent grave marker for the ’60s Scoop victim.

From family stories handed down, and from whatever research she’s been able to uncover, Kayl Commanda knows her great-grandmother’s 49 years were shockingly sad.

Beatrice Commanda — Kayl’s mother’s grandmother — was a victim of the infamous “’60s Scoop.” The term refers to the mass removal of Canadian Indigenous children from their families into the child welfare system, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands.

Beatrice lost her children, scuttled away to residential schools and foster families near the Nipissing First Nation, where she would eventually die at the age of 49. Family members marked her grave with a simple wood cross, vowing to at least keep her legacy alive. 

But Kayl, a student at Trent University in Peterborough, says the sadness didn’t end there. The property where Beatrice was buried flooded one year and the wooden cross, as well as her burial location, was lost.

“My grandmother remembered attending the funeral,” says Kayl, who also uses the name Opichi — the Anishinaabe word for robin.

“The issue that happened was that the Nipissing cemetery was flooded … obviously, it wasn't exactly a wealthy community at the time, so all of the gravestones were just OK.” But the flood took many away.

Kayl says the family had great difficulty in finding exactly where Beatrice was buried, but eventually her remains were located. They were able to put a bouquet of flowers on the site.

“But now we're trying to give her a proper headstone because she was an amazing woman, from what we hear,” she says. “She had a major injustice done to her, having all of her children taken away.”

It’s an expensive undertaking, but it’s one the family is determined to accomplish. Kayl says they started by selling family belongings, reaching out to relatives to see if they could spare some items. Kayl has also started a GoFundMe page, generating close to $3,000 so far.


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