About 160 acres are missing to search for more unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Aboriginal residential school in Kamloops, BC, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, an indigenous tribe in Canada, said Thursday, July 15.
The first area recorded was an apple orchard because a baby rib was found there, Sarah Beaulieu, a ground radar specialist at Fraser Valley University, told a news conference.
Beaulieu noted that the subsequent discovery of baby teeth in another area indicates the need for broader research.
Roseanne Casimir, the chief of the tribe, told stories about the school, which was the largest in Canada in the 1950s, that were transmitted orally. These stories led to the discovery of 215 unmarked graves in late May.
“They carried the burden of truth,” Casimir said. “This is a harsh truth. They were pointing to a dark historical chapter, but the indigenous people are still alive with the fallout they are experiencing today.”
There have been three other unnamed tomb finds in ancient Indian residential schools, bringing the total to 1,308 since the discovery of Kamloops.
See also: Another 160 secret graves of Aboriginal children found in western Canada
According to government data, about 139 Aboriginal schools have been established in Canada. The first opened in the 1920s, and an estimated 150,000 Aboriginal children were, in some cases, separated from their families and forced to attend.
The goal was to eliminate the original culture and replace it with the white European culture. The last school closed in 1996. It is believed that 4,000 children died of disease, malnutrition or abuse and were buried in schools, many of which were run by religious orders.
Kamloops survivors also said they remember children as young as six who grew up from their beds to dig graves in the apple orchard.
Casimir demanded the release of the federal government’s attendance records to help identify the children. He also said the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Catholic system in charge of the school for decades, should publish its records.
But the sheikh of the tribe stressed that the demand to reveal and search for the bodies was not motivated by revenge.
“We are not here to respond. We are here to tell the truth. We are charting a way forward to bring peace to these missing children, their families and their communities,” he concluded.
* Juan Felipe Vélez Rojas contributed to this note.
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