The B.C. First Nation that first confirmed the discovery of unmarked children’s graves at the site of a former residential school is renewing its call for an apology from the Pope, following the discovery of more gravesites in Saskatchewan.
On Thursday, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of an estimated 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School about 165 km east of Regina.
In a statement, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc chief and council offered their support to the Cowessess Nation, saying the discovery mirrored the “horrific truth” revealed by the discovery of 215 children’s remains at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“We regret that we know well what Cowessess First Nation is going through, given the preliminary findings we shared with the world on May 27, 2021,” the statement said.
“It has been a heavy burden but one we carry with love, honour and respect for the Kamloops Indian Residential School children – who we refer to as Le Estcwéý (The Missing) that are in our caretakership.”
On Thursday, Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme demanded an apology from the Pope over the Catholic church’s role in administering and operating Canada’s residential schools.
“The Roman Catholic Residential School has impacted us intensely, and today we have generations that may have not went to residential school, but they are feeling the first and second generation of that impact,” he said.
“An apology is one stage of many in the healing journey.”
Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir has previously made the same demand, and in the statement the First Nation reiterated its position.
“We, too, have called upon the Pope for an apology and agree with the statement made by Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme,” the statement read.
“An apology is but one of the many stages of the healing journey.”
Earlier this month, the Pope acknowledged the discovery at the Kamloops site, but while he expressed “sorrow,” he did not apologize.
While the pope has not apologized, some Catholic leaders in Canada have, including Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller and Archbishop of Regina Dan Bolen.
“I can only imagine the pain and waves of emotion that you and your people are experiencing right now,” Bolen said in an open letter to the people of Cowessess First Nation.
“I know that apologies seem a very small step as the weight of past suffering comes into greater light, but I extend that apology again.”
The Tk’emlúps First Nation said they would be making “significant announcements” about the Kamloops residential school in the “near future.”
Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can access this 24-hour, toll-free and confidential National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419