KAMLOOPS: The remains of 215 children, some as young as three 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 Tkemlups te Secwpemc 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 on 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.
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 programme 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.
The Canadian government apologised in parliament in 2008 and admitted that physical and sexual abuse in the schools was rampant. Many students recall being beaten for speaking their native languages; they also lost touch with their parents and customs.
Indigenous leaders have cited that legacy of abuse and isolation as the root cause of epidemic rates of alcoholism and drug addiction on reservations.