Youth Killed in 1972 Plane Crash Recalls Manitoba’s Residential School History

Fifty years after a plane crash claimed the lives of eight First Nations youth as they returned home from residential schools, an organization is reflecting on the aftermath of the tragedy and honoring the memory of those who were lost that day.

“June 24, 1972 was one of the darkest days for the Bunibonibee Cree Nation,” Manitoba Garrison Grand Chief Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) said in a press release, reacting to the 50th anniversary of a 1972 accident in Winnipeg that killed eight people. students and a pilot.

On the day of the crash, a plane took off from Winnipeg ready to fly these eight students home to the northern Manitoba community of the Bunibonibee Cree Nation for their summer vacation, but the plane crashed shortly after takeoff from a vacant lot on Linwood Street in Winnipeg, killing everyone on board.

The crash claimed the lives of Mary Rita Canada, 18, Wilkie Muskego, 16, Roy Sinclair, 16, and her sister Deborah Sinclair, 14, Margaret Robinson, 16, 17. Ethel Grieves, 16, Rosalie Belfour, 16, and pilot Wilbur S. Coughlin.

Students were heading home for their summer vacation, having attended boarding schools in Portage la Prairie and Stonewall, leaving some to wonder what would have become of them had they not perished that day a few years ago. is 50 years old.

“We will never stop wondering what these young people could have accomplished if they had not been victims of this plane crash,” Settee said.

According to Settee, the news of the accident is relevant today, as it shows more damage done by Canada’s old residential school system and the systems that he says can still force First Nations people from communities to leave their homes and travel long distances to pursue their studies.

“The loss of these young people is intertwined with Canada’s dark past,” said Settee. “These young people from Bunibonibee had to leave their home community to pursue their studies.

“It is important that we continue to talk and share our knowledge about the legacy of residential schools. This plane crash and the loss of these young people is one of the impacts of the residential school system in Manitoba.

A memorial to those who died in the crash now stands near the former Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School on the Long Plain First Nation Urban Reserve near Portage la Prairie.

There are also plans to erect a memorial at the crash site in Winnipeg, as the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada recently announced that it will build a monument to those lost in the crash on the Linwood Street in St. James, where the plane crashed in 1972.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Bunibonibee Cree Nation and all those affected by the plane crash that upended so many lives 50 years ago,” said Settee.

“MKO continues to stand in solidarity with all First Nations affected by the loss of innocent children and youth.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun