Remains of 215 children found at former residential school
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc band announced yesterday that it has found the remains of 215 children buried on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Chief Rosanne Casimir called the discovery "unthinkable" but said that it was an “loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”
This knowledge was only confirmed in the last few days through the presence of radar.
The children, some as young as three, were students at the school, which was once the largest in Canada’s residential school system. Although Casimir believes the deaths to be undocumented, the Secwepemc Museum's archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum to see if any records of the deaths can be found. Band officials will be informing community members and surrounding communities who had children who attended the school.
The First Nations Health Authority called the discovery of the children’s remains “extremely painful” and said in a website posting that it “will have a significant impact on the Tk’emlups community and in the communities served by this residential school.”
Kamloops Indian Residential School operated from 1890 to 1969 and had nearly 500 students in the 1950s. The federal government took over the operation from the Catholic Church to operate as a day school until it closed in 1978. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said large numbers of Indigenous children either ran away from residential schools or died at the schools. According to the Commission, nearly 3,200 children across Canada in the residential schools.
“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,” Casimir said in the release.
Back In 1946, the Charles Camsell Indian hospital was opened in Edmonton as part of the twenty-nine "Indian hospitals" that were established and operated by the Canadian government between 1945 to 1981, exclusively for Indigenous peoples.
The Canadian government segregated Indigenous people from the rest of society in substandard hospitals which were massively overcrowded, improperly staffed, and rife with physical and sexual abuse.