The Cree community in Quebec that is undergoing an investigation into possible graves near two residential schools on its territory will not be sending a delegation to meet with Pope Francis in the provincial capital.

Chief Daisy House of the Cree Nation of Chisasibi said the community decided not to participate in the Papal visit, opting to focus on local healing and traditional activities.

"This week, we will focus on our strength and collective healing at the Annual Fort George Residential School Gathering," said House in a news release. "As a main location in Eeyou Istchee (Cree land) where residential schools were located — sites that constantly remind us of our pain and trauma — Council has decided to move ahead with this important part of our healing at home."

Chisasibi is a five-hour flight from Quebec City, and is where the first residential schools in Quebec were established.

The two residential schools (one Catholic and one Anglican) operated from 1933-1981 at Fort George on the nation's territory, located near the east shore of James Bay along the Grande River.

Children were taken from their families in Chisasibi, Whapmagoostui, Wemiddji, Waskaganish, and around a dozen more communities to attend the school.

After more than a year of community consultations, the community decided to begin ground-penetrating radar at the sites.

"Chisasibi Eeyouch (Cree) are feeling raw, challenging emotions already, and this week will trigger more pain in the coming days," said House.

Livestreams of the Pope's messages and visits will be available in East Cree dialects.

House added that the community is calling for the Pope to direct his bishops and the Canadian church to cooperate with Indigenous communities and give access to historical records the church holds. 

If you are a former residential school survivor in distress, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional mental-health support and resources for Indigenous people are available here.