Advertisement

Williams Lake First Nation releases early results of former residential school grounds sweep

Click to play video: 'Williams Lake First Nation announces discovery of 93 potential gravesites at former B.C. residential school' Williams Lake First Nation announces discovery of 93 potential gravesites at former B.C. residential school
Williams Lake First Nation announced Tuesday that 93 potential gravesites had been discovered following an initial search of a former B.C. residential school using ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry. Officials said 50 of those potential burial sites were not associated with a historic cemetery at St. Joseph's Mission Residential School – Jan 25, 2022

Warning: This story deals with disturbing subject matter that may upset and trigger some readers. Discretion is advised.

On Tuesday, the Chief and Council of the Williams Lake First Nation released preliminary geophysical results from the first phase of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School investigation.

The initial sweep has uncovered 93 possible burial sites.

Williams Lake First Nation Kúkpi7 Willie Sellars and councillors released the first-phase geophysical findings Tuesday, after launching its land survey with ground-penetrating radar in June.

Click to play video: 'Many families will not have ‘closure’ even after investigation of former residential school complete, Williams Lake Chief says' Many families will not have ‘closure’ even after investigation of former residential school complete, Williams Lake Chief says
Many families will not have ‘closure’ even after investigation of former residential school complete, Williams Lake Chief says – Jan 25, 2022

Read more: 93 possible burial sites found in initial search at former B.C. residential school site

Story continues below advertisement

The Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981 and has since been demolished.

It was run by the Roman Catholic Church from July 1891 to March 31, 1969. The federal government then managed it until it closed.

“We’re grateful that we were able to complete the first phase of our geophysical research and will be in a position to have greater clarity about the results of the ground-penetrating radar and other technical investigations,” WLFN Chief, Willie Sellars said in a release.

Read more: Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site with ground-penetrating radar

“This has been an extremely challenging time for WLFN and other First Nations who were affected by the facility at St. Joseph’s. We have out of necessity, in the course of our investigation, opened old wounds and asked people to recount some terrible and harrowing stories. But the information provided has helped shape our investigation and I’m thankful to make progress on this first phase of our work.”

“We know that everyone is eager to receive these results,” Sellars added. “But we’re asking that everyone be patient and respectful of the process. Our key concern is the mental health and welfare of the survivors of St. Joseph’s, and that of their families. We’re trying to conduct this process in as orderly a fashion as possible.

Story continues below advertisement

Officials in this investigation used the same ground-penetrating radar technology utilized at the former residential school in Kamloops.

In June, the federal government pledged $27 million to help Indigenous communities locate the remains of children who died at residential schools.

Click to play video: 'Survivors of former Kamloops residential school speak out' Survivors of former Kamloops residential school speak out
Survivors of former Kamloops residential school speak out – Oct 18, 2021

Read more: ‘The story was hidden’: How residential school graves shocked and shaped Canada in 2021

From the 1870s until 1996, more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in residential schools across the country, often against their parents’ will. They were forbidden from speaking their language or maintaining their culture. Many were subjected to abuse of all kinds, and the schools saw high mortality rates.

Many children at the schools died of smallpox, measles, influenza and tuberculosis and in many cases a cause of death was never identified. Some were buried in unmarked graves in school cemeteries while others were listed as missing. In some instances, parents never found out what happened to their children.

Story continues below advertisement

Beginning with the finding of at least 200 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May, over 1,000 such unmarked graves were found at residential school sites in Western Canada over the spring and summer.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-800-721-0066) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

— with files from Phil Heidenreich

Sponsored content