Effective immediately: IRSSS (Indian Residential School Survivors Society) Emergency Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those that may need counselling support from this report. Call 1-800-721-0066 or 24hr Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419.
It is Canada’s dirtiest secret. Residential school where by government decree the goal was to take the “Indian out of the child”. It was a time when countless Indigenous children were taken by force or intimidation from their families.
Those children arrived at residential school, where they were in effect stripped of their families, stripped of their culture and forbidden to speak their own language. In many cases they even had their names stolen from them.
In Kamloops British Columbia, at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School the bodies of 215 former students of the residential school were discovered.
It is with a heavy heart that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir confirms an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the home community of the Kamloops Indian Residential School which was the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system. As such, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Leadership acknowledges their responsibility to caretake for these lost children.
“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir. “Some were as young as three years old. 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.”
This work was undertaken by the C7élksten̓ s re Secwépemc ne Ck̓ úl̓ tens ell ne Xqwelténs (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Culture Department) with ceremonial Knowledge Keepers who ensured that the work was conducted respectfully in light of the serious nature of the investigation with cultural protocols being upheld.
Given that these lost loved ones are buried within the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community, and with all community members still grappling with the effects of residential school, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief and Council first reached out to their community members to make them aware of the situation, albeit that it is still developing.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc will continue to work with the ground penetrating radar specialist to complete the survey of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School grounds. In undertaking this current investigation, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief and Council would like to acknowledge the preliminary work that was carried out in the early 2000’s. 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.
Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir stated, “We are thankful for the Pathway to Healing grant we received to undertake this important work. Given the size of the school, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time, we understand that this confirmed loss affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond. We wish to ensure that our community members, as well as all home communities
for the children who attended are duly informed. This is the beginning but, given the nature of this news, we felt it important to share immediately. At this time we have more questions than answers. We look forward to providing updates as they become available.”
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is following the necessary steps regarding these preliminary findings. This includes:
- Engaging with the coroner.
- Reaching out to the home communities who had children who attended the Kamloops IndianResidential School.
- Taking measures to ensure that the locations of the remains are protected.
- The Secwépemc Museum Archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum,amongst others, to seek out any existing records of these deaths.Please note that the Heritage Park is closed to the public and no one will be permitted on site for the duration of this sensitive work.Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc expect to complete preliminary findings by mid- June and will be providing updates as they become available.
The impact of Residential School on Canada’s Indigenous people is still being felt today.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission documented the facts.
The Government of Canada, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to Canada’s First Peoples.
The impact on people who were taken from their families, in many documented cases were abused, physically and sexually has been part of an ongoing story of hidden facts.
Even in Thunder Bay in this day, a social media page had the image of the Thunder Bay Residential School removed today. That school is long gone now, but the page it was posted too is one recording “Thunder Bay Memories”.
The removal has sparked online controversy in Thunder Bay with many people feeling that it is just another effort toward hiding the truth and the past of residential school in our country and city.
To overcome the terrible impact of Residential School is going to take understanding, time and care and concern.
We all need to practice understanding and embrace the spirit of reconciliation.