For people who have been fighting for their rights, it has been said, “It’s something that we’ve always had to fight to prove. To me, it’s always been a horrible, horrible history.”
This is a powerful statement that shows that many have suffered and paid the price for renunciation. The natives had to fight for what was theirs and the battle wasn’t necessarily a peaceful one.
So, what exactly happened? Well, indigenous people are left aghast and Canadians are reeling from this recent grim discovery. This shone a harsh light on history because of the North American country’s bloody story that centered around native genocide.
As grim as this story is, it had to be told. People needed to know because it should make them ware of the past and do their best to start anew. It’s about not committing the same mistakes our ancestors did. On Thursday, the chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Indigenous community confirmed the story. People found the remains of 215 children that had been buried in a mass grave at a state-run boarding school. Some of the skeletal remains were from children as young as three years old.
The mass grave was unearthed and it was at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. This offers a sobering realization of the sad history. Why was such a large number of Indigenous children seized from their homes by Canadian authorities? How come they never made it back to their homes? The bodies seemed to validate some of the worst fears of Tk’emlúps community members. They had as lost many of their loved ones without knowing how and why because they seemingly disappeared into thin air.
Chief Rosanne Casimir shared her thoughts at a news conference and said, “It’s a harsh reality and it’s our truth, it’s our history. And it’s something that we’ve always had to fight to prove. To me, it’s always been a horrible, horrible history.” She further stated that there was always “a knowing” about this very sad and disturbing history at boarding schools like the Kamloops Indian Residential School. However, their suspicions were never confirmed until this piece of evidence finally came to light. It was all because of the ground-penetrating radar technology that the truth came out.
The said school was in operation from 1890 to the late 1970s. The student enrollment was at its peak around 1950s when they had 500 young kids. The story was confirmed by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They said that large amounts of Indigenous children fled the schools or died there. When this happened, their whereabouts were unknown until this very day. The boarding school’s former students have testified against the institution, saying that they’ve experienced a slew of horrific sexual, mental, and physical abuse that they have gone through while they were enrolled.
The school was located at Tk’emlúps Heritage Park. This has now been closed as crews search every inch of the area for more possible remains. And as mentioned earlier, there were children as young as three years old who were enrolled at the school. The institution was once considered the largest in Canada’s boarding schools for First Nations children. As big as it was, many had believed that the deaths were swept under the rug. None of the stories and deaths were documented and released to the public. However, indigenous scholars who are working with the Royal British Columbia Museum said that possible records may exist. They just have to dig into the archives deeper to confirm what they knew all along.
Chief Casimir made a vow to the Tk’emlups community. She said that people involved need to take full responsibility in order for justice to be served. This is especially vital for the hundreds of “lost children” and the families directly affected. She said in a recent statement, “We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”
The work to identify the site had started in the early 2000s. This project was led by indigenous authorities and it was in tandem with ceremonial Knowledge Keepers. This was to make sure that cultural protocols were followed and the findings were treated with respect. They had made use of modern and innovative radar technology to identify potential mass graves. With this, the recent breakthrough was made. Chief Casimir explained, “With access to the latest technology, the true accounting of the missing students will hopefully bring some peace and closure to those lives lost and their home communities.” She further added, “At this time we have more questions than answers.”
It is with hope that answers will be unearthed for the sake of the children and the families who had lost them.
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