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Remains Of 215 Children Found At School In British Columbia

by : Emily Brown on : 28 May 2021 08:02
Remains Of 215 Children Found At School In British ColumbiaCFJC Today/Kamloops Heritage Commission

The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. 

The chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, members of the Interior-Salish Secwepemc (Shuswap) speaking peoples of British Columbia, called the discovery an ‘unthinkable loss’ as it was confirmed this week with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist.

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Once the largest school in Canada’s residential school system, the former Kamloops Indian Residential School operated from 1890 to 1969 before being taken over by the federal government from 1969 to 1978, during which time the building was used as a residence for students attending other Kamloops schools.

 Kamloops Indian Residential School (Kamloops Heritage Commission)Kamloops Heritage Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said large numbers of Indigenous children either ran away from residential schools or died at the schools, and while Chief Rosanne Casimir says the presence of the remains was ‘a knowing’ within the Tk’emlups community, it had not been confirmed until the work was carried out last weekend.

The children found buried at the site, some of whom were as young as three, were students at the school whose deaths are believed to have been undocumented. According to Global News, the Secwepemc Museum’s archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum to see if any records of the deaths can be found.

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Chief Rosanne Casimir (Tk’emlúps)Tk’emlúps

In a news release discussing the finding, Chief Casimir said the leadership of the Tk’emlups community ‘acknowledges their responsibility to caretake for these lost children.’

She commented:

We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.

With access to the latest technology, the true accounting of the missing students will hopefully bring some peace and closure to those lives lost and their home communities.

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Work to identify the site began in the early 2000s and was led by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Cultural Department alongside ceremonial Knowledge Keepers, who made sure work was conducted in keeping with cultural protocols.

Monument at Kamloops Indian Residential School (CFJC Today)CFJC Today

Casimir admitted those behind the discovery ‘have more questions than answers’ at the moment, but felt the news was important to share ‘immediately’. Band officials are now working to inform community members and surrounding communities who had children who attended the school.

Work to complete the survey of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds is set to continue with the help of the ground-penetrating radar specialist, with the site remaining closed to the public while work is carried out.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, British Columbia, Canada, children