A First Nation in Canada says it has discovered 93 potential graves on the grounds of a former residential school.
The Williams Lake First Nation chief and council said a preliminary search of the St Joseph’s Mission residential school had revealed “possible human burials” on a small portion of the school’s sprawling grounds.
“This journey has taken our research team into the darkest corners of human behavior,” said Willie Sellars (head) of Kúkpi7 on Tuesday.
The school operated in the province of British Columbia between 1891 and 1981 and has a dark history of abuse. Many students fled and others attempted suicide. A child died of exposure in the desert after fleeing.
“At the time, the forensic service and the RCMP did not see any reason to investigate the death as the boy was ‘just an Indian,'” he said.
Sellars said the investigation had required a large number of survivors.
“Our team has recorded not only stories of the murder and disappearance of children and infants, but has also heard countless stories of systematic torture, starvation, rape and sexual assault of children in the San José Mission,” he said.
The investigation found evidence that the children’s bodies were disposed of near rivers and lakes and evidence that the school’s incinerator had been used to dispose of the children, Sellars said. Murray Sinclair, who led the country Truth and Reconciliation Commission, previously told The Guardian about similar stories.
Canada’s residential school legacy has come under renewed scrutiny since the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation announced last May that it had discovered there were believed to be more than 200 unmarked graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
For more than a century, at least 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church. The children were forcibly converted to Christianity, given new names, and prohibited from speaking their native languages. The last residential school closed in the 1990s.
Only a part of the 470 hectares have been registered. Of the 93 potential graves identified, 50 were outside the school cemetery, said Whitney Spearing, the lead investigator.
“It must be emphasized that no geophysical investigation can give certainty about the presence of human remains,” he said. “Excavation is the only technique that will provide answers as to whether human remains are present.”
Sellars said the community will hold discussions about whether or not to excavate the sites, a complicated question that many nations across the country are grappling with.
But Tuesday’s announcement validates the survivors’ stories, he said.
“For decades there have been reports of neglect and abuse at St Joseph’s Mission and, even worse, there have been reports of children dying or going missing from the facility,” he said. no credit has been given.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism