The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation will outline next steps this week in their investigation into the unmarked graves found on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops.
The First Nation originally announced the discovery, made with ground-penetrating radar, in late May. There were 215 unmarked graves discovered, which the Tk’emlúps believe are undocumented deaths from the residential school.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School was one of the biggest in Canada, opening its doors in 1890 and not closing until 1976. It was run by theRoman Catholic Church until 1969, at which point it was taken over by the federal government until its closure in 1976.
The discovery of the 215 unmarked graves led to a reckoning among non-Indigenous Canadians about the country’s dark past and how the system of residential schools – the last of which did not close until 1996 – continues to traumatize Indigenous Peoples to this day. More than 1,000 graves have been discovered in Canada this year, including in Kamloops, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and near Cranbrook in B.C.
On Thursday (July 15),Chief Rosanne Casimir, the Tk’emlúps legal council, a ground-penetrating radar specialist, other experts as well as survivors of the residential school and their descendants will speak to the First Nation’s next steps.
The B.C. government has committed $12 million to help First Nations in the province investigate the 18 residential schools that operated in the area, while the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver has offered a formal apology and “technical and professional support” to the Tk’emlúps and other First Nations to “honour, retrieve and remember their deceased children.”