Last week, another piece of evidence was published shedding more light on the native genocide perpetrated against First (Indigenous) People in North America, in this case, Canada. A mass grave was discovered on the grounds surrounding the Kamloops Indian Residential School containing the remains of 215 children – students of the school. The discovery was enabled thanks to ground-penetrating radar.
Kamloops Indian Residential School (located in British Columbia) provided education and accommodation for children of Native American families. It was the largest school of its kind in Canada (at its peak, more than 500 children attended it at one time). In schools of this type, children were utterly cut off from their family and cultural backgrounds, subjected to a strict regime, and often abused physically, emotionally and even sexually. From the end of the 19th century until the late 1960s, these schools were managed primarily by the Catholic Church. Consecutively, the schools generally came under state administration, only to be closed or significantly transformed. While state officials have sought to be critical of the unfortunate legacy of this educational system, the Catholic Church has never admitted its share of the blame or formally apologised for its behaviour.
Representatives of Indigenous People’s organisations have compared the experiences of former students of this school system to the traumas of prisoners of war. In fact, schools of this type were often attended by several generations of families, so these experiences negatively affected a significant portion of the population for a long time and could significantly disrupt inter-generational relationships.
“It is … a dark and shameful chapter of our country’s history.”
The victims of abuse who were found in the mass grave will likely remain unknown forever. Some of the children were only 3 years old. Families were told the children had run away, and no one was looking for anything. The same information was given to their classmates.
In 2015, Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its final report on Canada’s abysmal residential school system. The report listed dozens of examples of child maltreatment; its authors estimated that as many as 4,000 children may have died in the school system from diseases such as tuberculosis.
Featured picture: Archives Deschâtelets-NDC, Richelieu via https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/community/kamloops-history-the-dark-and-difficult-legacy-of-the-kamloops-indian-residential-school-1.24215330