The remains of 215 indigenous children, some as young as 3 years old, have been found buried on the site of the Kamloops Industrial School, which was once Canada’s largest Indigenous residential school, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said Thursday.
In a statement, the First Nation said the remains were confirmed last weekend with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, near the city of Kamloops, in B.C.’s southern Interior
Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Stated Kukpi7 said in a news release “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.”
More bodies may be found because there are more areas to search on the school grounds, Casimir added.
In 1883, Sir John A. Macdonald authorizes the creation of residential schools in the Canadian West according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Sir Hector Langevin, Secretary of State for the Provinces tells Parliament: “In order to educate the children properly we must separate them from their families. Some people may say this is hard, but if we want to civilize them we must do that.”
The Kamloops school was opened, under Roman Catholic administration, in 1890. Enrolment peaked in the early 1950s at 500. In 1969, the Canadian government took over the administration, which no longer provided any classes and operated it as residence for students attending local day schools until 1978, when the residence was closed.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 First Nations children were required to attend state-funded Christian schools as part of a program to assimilate them into Canadian society. They were forced to convert to Christianity and not allowed to speak their native languages. Many were beaten and verbally abused, and up to 6,000 are said to have died. Reported the Chicago Tribune newspaper.
A report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada said at least 3,200 children had died in the country, amid abuse and neglect, and it said it had reports of at least 51 deaths at the Kamloops school alone between 1915 and 1963.
In 2008, the former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper apologizes to First Nations, Inuit and Métis for the residential school.