Could there be unmarked burial sites on or near the former locations of federal Indian boarding schools in North Dakota? It’s a question some are trying to answer.

According to a report released earlier this month as part of the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative, there are marked or unmarked burial sites at about 53 schools across the federal Indian boarding school system. That number could increase as the investigation continues. However, the report did not disclose the location of those sites.

Friday, May 20, tribal members met with the chief archaeologist and director of the State Historical Society of North Dakota near what is now the Fort Totten State Historic Site to discuss the possibility of searching the area. The site was formerly the location of an Indian boarding school.

“There’s been rumors or stories of elders for decades about unmarked graves here, of children from the Fort Totten Boarding School that were brought here under secrecy, it sounds like, and were buried here,” said Dr. Denise Lajimodiere, a citizen of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

If a search were to take place, it would only be done with the approval of key stakeholders, such as tribal councils.