Another 160 unmarked graves found at Indigenous school in Canada
Dozens of new graves have been discovered in an area belonging to a residential school in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported on Monday.
The Penelakut Tribe found the “undocumented and unmarked” graves around the Kuper Island Residential School operated from 1890 until 1975 on the Penelakut Island, formerly known as the Kuper Island, where many horrors have already been documented, Xinhua news agency quoted the CTV report as saying on Monday night.
As per reports, the Penelakut tribe notified the other indigenous First Nation communities through an online newsletter. “We are inviting you to join us in our work to raise awareness of the Kuper Island Industrial School, and Confirmation of the 160+ undocumented and unmarked graves in our grounds and foreshore,” it said.
Penelakut tribe Chief Joan Brown added, “It is impossible to get over acts of genocide and human rights violations. Healing is an ongoing process, and sometimes it goes well, and sometimes we lose more people because the burden is too great. We are at another point in time where we must face trauma because of these acts of genocide. Each time we do, it is possible to heal a little more. Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is acting in spite of fear.”
1000 Unmarked Graves Discovered
On May 28, the remains of 215 indigenous children were discovered in unmarked graves near the Kamloops Indian Residential School, also in British Columbia. They were found by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation.
On June 24, the Cowessess First Nation, an indigenous group in Saskatchewan province, announced a preliminary discovery of 751 unmarked graves near a former indigenous residential school.
On June 30, the indigenous community Aq’am announced the discovery of the remains of 182 people in unmarked graves around a former indigenous residential school near the town of Cranbrook in British Columbia.
Survivors of Canada’s indigenous residential schools said the findings were just the tip of the iceberg, renewing their feelings of grief and trauma.
An estimated 150,000 indigenous children across Canada were reportedly removed from their homes and forced to attend residential schools in the 1890s. The last such school closed in 1996. In many cases, the children in these schools endured beatings and sexual abuse as they were taught about white culture.
An estimated 150,000 indigenous children across Canada were reportedly removed from their homes and forced to attend residential schools in the 1890s. In many cases, the children in these schools endured beatings and sexual abuse as they were taught about white culture.
Reportedly, the school was often referred to as Canada’s Alcatraz due to the remote location of the school and the difficulty in escaping from it. It was run by Catholic Church, with funding from the federal government of Canada. It was only in 1969 that the government took over the administration of the school before shutting it down permanently in 1975. Records reveal that two sisters died while trying to escape from the school in 1959. Information is also available about a student, who committed suicide in 1966. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has records of 202 deaths of residential school students, including the Kuper Island Residential school.
The Missing Children
According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a large number of indigenous children that attended residential schools never made it back to their homes. Some children ran away while others died at the schools. These students are now called the “Missing Children”.
It is estimated that at least 4,000 children died.
The Missing Children Project documents and deaths and burial sites of such children who died while attending the residential schools. So far, it is estimated that at least 4,000 children died.
Purpose of Residential Schools
The aim of these residential schools was to “clean” out the native culture, language and heritage of the children. Their main objective was to make the children denounce their ways of life and make them more ‘suitable’ for a white, Christian society. This objective was achieved by forcibly keeping the children away from their families, mental, physical and emotional torture and a complete ban on native language and lifestyle within the school premises.
The recent discoveries have sparked outrage and pain among the indigenous populations in Canada.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said after the discovery of unmarked graves in Saskatchewan, “The findings in Marieval and Kamloops are part of a larger tragedy. They are a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced – and continue to face – in this country. And together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future.”
Bob Chamberlin, former vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said, “This is not something that you casually set aside and carry on with your days. It’s something that’s heavy on the hearts of First Nations people and stays in the mind as we go through our days. There are many people that are going to be struggling to a great degree.”
On one hand, there are echoes for the church to be held accountable and on the other hand, the search for the missing children continue to haunt Canada.
Written by Dhriti Chaturvedi