KAMLOOPS, CANADA — The remains of 215 indigenous children have been discovered in mass graves at the site of a former assimilation boarding school in British Columbia, Canada.
The remains were found on the site of the former Kamloops Residential School.
The school was part of a network of government-funded and church-operated campuses across stretches of Canada where indigenous children were forced to live and take classes on cultural assimilation.
Assimilation schools (including Indian boarding schools in the U.S.) were used to forcibly educate indigenous children to learn Western and Christian beliefs and pushed for them to abandon their traditional beliefs and norms.
The North American schools also had problems with sexual and physical child abuse.
Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir announced the discovery of the children’s remains on May 27.
“This past weekend, with the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” the Canadian tribe said in a statement.
As many as 150,000 indigenous children were put in assimilation boarding schools across Canada. An estimated 6,000 of those kids died in the schools which were funded by Canadian government and operated by Christian churches.
The Kamloops school was established in 1890 and was open until 1978. It was funded by Canadian government but was operated by the Roman Catholic Church for much of that time.
Kamloops is about a five hours drive northeast of Seattle. The discovery of the remains underscore the historical mistreatment and persecutions of indigenous persons in Canada and the U.S.
The tribe called discovery of the mass graves an “unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”