Warning: The following story contains details of residential schools that may be annoying. The crisis line on survivors and families of Canadian residential schools in Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation leader Rosanne Casimir on Thursday called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Immaculate Oblate Mission to open student attendance records “immediately and completely” for their community can identify the hundreds of children buried on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Casimir said the search for his community has just begun and asked the provincial and federal governments to provide funds and resources to help his community continue the investigation and protect the remains of the children.
“We at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are still waiting for you to contact us to acknowledge the latest truths from Kamloops Indian Residential School. I look forward to a dazzling conversation in which we can finalize the details of the federal government providing the necessary support and access to our students ’records,” Casimir said at a news conference in Kamloops, British Columbia.
From the late 1800s to 1996, Canada forced 150,000 Indigenous children to attend assimilation institutions called “residential schools,” where they were forbidden to practice their culture or speak their language. Many were physically and sexually abused and thousands are believed to have died.
In May, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc was the first in the country to publish a preliminary discovery of 215 indigenous children buried in unmarked graves in the Kamloops Indian Residential School which were found using a radar that penetrated the ground.
In recent months, other First Nations have used the same technology to search for residential school sites, bringing the total number of indigenous graves to more than 1,000, many of which are not included in historical records or ‘have removed the tombstones.
Looking for graves
On Thursday, experts said only 0.8 hectares (65 hectares) of the 160-hectare residential school with a ground penetration radar have been searched. Sarah Beaulieu, the radar specialist who participated in the research, said she further analyzed the probable locations of the graves and concluded that there are approximately 200 probable graves, not 215, as first reported.
“With the radar penetrating the ground, we can never say for sure that they are human remains until you dig,” he said. “They have multiple signatures presenting burials, but that’s why we have to say they’re likely until it’s excavated.”
Beaulieu said survivors conducted the search because they knew there were graves at the site, adding that archaeologists found a juvenile tooth near the site in the late 1990s or early 2000s, and a tourist found a a child’s rib bone in the same area in the 2000s.
He said there were likely to be child remains in the graves. “Most of the anomalies were between 0.7 and 0.8 meters (27.5 and 31.5 inches) below the surface, which is quite shallow, and fits the descriptions of the children’s guardians who “They have to dig graves, for one. It also fits when you have a youth burial, because they have a shorter length, they don’t usually dig so deep.”
Beaulieu said no graves have yet been excavated. It is unclear when or if an excavation will take place.
“We are here today because of the survivors of Indian residential schools and the intergenerational survivors who were relentless in bringing these painful truths about the missing children,” Casimir said. He said the survivors witnessed abuse and were required to dig graves, and it is because they told their truth that their community can verify where the children are buried.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a process that lasted years documenting the stories of survivors, confirmed 4,100 children who died in institutions, from abuse, neglect, illness, fire and exposure after fleeing.
But the full range of how many children died, and the causes of his death, are still unknown. According to the TRC, it was not until 1935 that the government adopted a formal policy on how to report and investigate deaths in institutions. The commission found that during half of the recorded deaths, the government did not include the cause of death.
More than 7,000 survivors of the institutions testified before the TRC. In its final report (PDF), the commission concluded that the practice was a cultural genocide and that Canada had “set out to destroy the political and social institutions” of Indigenous peoples with the aim of seizing land.
According to the UN, the policy of forced assimilation institutions was popular around the world (in Canada, the United States, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Russia, Scandinavia, and East Africa) because it was cheaper than waging war against Indigenous Peoples.
During the press conference, survivors of the Kamloops institution shared their stories.
Mona Jules said her 13-year-old sister fell ill and died at the Kamloops institution, but her parents were not notified until after her death. “They wanted to know, why didn’t they take her to a doctor, to the hospital? It was just across the bridge, “he said.” There were no answers. “
Jules said she and other children were beaten for speaking their indigenous language. She is still fluent and has spent her life teaching it to everyone who wants to learn.
“I have spent years trying to revive what this school has lost. And it works: we have a lot of our young people who speak it and run language departments, they have meetings in the language, they talk to each other. I still work with them, when I can, and I will continue to do so as long as I can. “