The remains of 215 children, some as young as 3 years old, have been found buried on the site of what was once Canada's largest Indigenous residential school — one of the institutions that held children taken from families across the nation.
Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation said in a news release that the remains were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar.More bodies may be found because there are more areas to search on the school grounds, Casimir said Friday.
In an earlier release, she called the discovery an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”
A report more than five years ago by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed harsh mistreatment inflicted on Indigenous children at the the institutions.
It said at least 3,200 children had died amid abuse and neglect, and it said it had reports of at least 51 deaths at the Kamloops school alone between 1915 and 1963.
“This really resurfaces the issue of residential schools and the wounds from this legacy of genocide towards Indigenous people,” Terry Teegee, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for British Colombia, said Friday.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said he was “horrified and heartbroken” to learn of the discovery, calling it a tragedy of “unimaginable proportions” that highlights the violence and consequences of the residential school system.
The Kamloops school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.Casimir said it’s believed the deaths are undocumented, although a local museum archivist is working with the Royal British Columbia Museum to see if any records of the deaths can be found.