Remains of hundreds of Canadian indigenous children found in old school grounds

·2 min read
The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia - Canadian Press/Shutterstock
The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia - Canadian Press/Shutterstock

Remains of 215 indigenous children who were forcibly removed from their families have been found at a mass grave by a former school in Canada.

The mass grave was found on the site of a former residential school established by the Roman Catholic church in 1890, which was closed in 1969.

It formed part of a network of establishments across Canada that were set up to forcibly assimilate native children.

According to one estimate, more than 150,000 children were sent to the schools where they were banned from speaking their own languages or following their cultural traditions.

Thousands of children went missing from the institutions, some of whom died and some ran away. Abuse was rife at the schools, but families were threatened with jail if they did not surrender their children to them.

The treatment of the children remains a scar on Canadian history. In 2015 it was described as a "culture of genocide" by the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The grim discovery was made by a team using ground-penetrating radar at Kamloops, about 220 miles northeast of Vancouver.

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School  -  Canadian Press/Shutterstock
The former Kamloops Indian Residential School - Canadian Press/Shutterstock

How and when the children died is still unknown.

They were members of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc Nation, one of the indigenous groups in British Columbia.

Documents submitted to the commission laid bare the harsh conditions which prevailed at the school.

As far back as 1935 an official report, following a measles outbreak, noted that 285 children were accommodated in only five dormitories, making it impossible to isolate children and prevent the disease from spreading.

Rosanne Casimir, chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said she was working with museums to try to find records of the children's deaths.

“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” she added.

"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 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."

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