A mass grave containing the remains of 215 indigenous children has been discovered on the grounds of a former residential school in the interior of southern British Columbia.
The grim discovery at the old school near the town of Kamloops was announced Thursday night by the people of Tk’emlups te Secwépemc after the site was examined by a team using ground penetrating radar.
“We had knowledge in our community that we were able to verify. As far as we know, these missing children are undocumented deaths, ”Rosanne Casimir, head of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, said in a statement.
Some of the remains belong to children as young as three years old, but the causes and timing of their death are still unknown. “Right now we have more questions than answers,” Casimir said.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was established in 1890 under the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church and closed in 1978.
It was part of a network of residential schools across Canada created to forcibly assimilate indigenous children by removing them from their homes and communities and prohibiting them from speaking their native languages or engaging in cultural practices. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse was rampant within these institutions, as was forced labor.
At least 150,000 children attended these schools in what a landmark 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission described as a “culture of genocide” targeting the indigenous peoples of Canada.
In documents presented to the commission, former Kamloops aides described the harsh conditions of the school, which did not receive enough per capita funds from the government to pay its costs.
George Manuel, who attended in the 1920s, said: “All the Indian students smelled of hunger.” The school was described as cold in winter and unhealthy.
The same documents mention that the students were exposed to outbreaks of measles, tuberculosis, influenza and other contagious diseases, and many died.
In a 1935 report of a measles death at school, one officer noted that “the sleeping place for 285 students at the school consists of five bedrooms, which are crammed. During an epidemic it is impossible to adequately isolate patients and contacts. “
Violence against students at the Kamloops residential school continued until its closure. The TRC reported that in the 1960s, the Kamloops school principal advocated putting older children who got into fights in a boxing ring. “Put them in the ring with gloves and supervise a boxing match until both boys are too tired to worry more.”
Indigenous communities have long believed that mass graves of residential school students existed, and proving this has been a decades-long process. “It is important because the story of the secret mass graves of residential schools is an urban legend,” he said. a column in British Columbia news outlet TheTyee.ca.
The TRC has estimated at least 3,201 deaths in residential schools, although the actual total it may never be known due to unaccounted deaths and destroyed files.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism