The bodies of at least 600 people were found at the site of a former Catholic residential school for indigenous children, a Canadian tribe said Thursday.
Using ground-penetrating radar, a search of the Marieval Indian Residential School site in Saskatchewan resulted in 751 "hits," according to Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme. That indicates at least 600 bodies were buried there, as radar operators say equipment could give results with a margin of error of 10%, the Associated Press reported.
"We want to make sure when we tell our story that we’re not trying to make numbers sound bigger than they are," Delorme said. "I like to say over 600, just to be assured."
He added the graves used to be marked but were removed at one point by the school.
"The nuns were very mean to us," said Florence Sparvier, an 80-year-old woman who said she attended the school. "We had to learn how to be Roman Catholic. We couldn’t say our own little blessings."
"We learned how to not like who we were," she added. "That has gone on, and it’s still going on."
Delorme also said an apology from the pope would be "one stage in the way of a healing journey."
"This was a crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations," said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations in Saskatchewan. "We will not stop until we find all the bodies."
When the remains of the bodies, some as young as 3 years old, were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, the pope expressed sorrow but did not expressly apologize for the deaths.
"I join with the Catholic Church in Canada in expressing closeness to the Canadian people traumatized by the shocking news," Pope Francis said. "This sad discovery increases the awareness of the sorrows and sufferings of the past."
Between 1883 and 1996, Canada attempted to assimilate its indigenous population by sending children to Christian residential schools. The schools forbade them from speaking their native languages and engaging with their culture or religion, instead teaching them the English language, Western culture, and the Christian religion. Widespread abuse was reported in these schools.
The Canadian government admitted physical and sexual abuse often took place in the schools.
"My heart breaks for the Cowessess First Nation following the discovery of Indigenous children buried at the former Marieval Residential School," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. "We cannot bring them back, but we will honour their memory, and we will tell the truth about these injustices."
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Original Author: Haley Victory Smith