• Dates unmarked graves were located: May 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was part of the Canadian Indian residential school system. Located in Kamloops, British Columbia, it was once the largest residential school in Canada, with its enrolment peaking at 500 in the 1950s.

The school was established in 1890 and operated until 1969, when it was taken over from the Catholic Church by the federal government to be used as a day school residence. It closed in 1978. The school building still stands today, and is located on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

In the early 2000s, a tourist discovered a juvenile rib in the area, and in the late 1990s a child's tooth was found. In 2021, Sarah Beaulieu— an anthropologist at the University of the Fraser Valley—surveyed the area with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and concluded the probable presence of about 200 unmarked graves, though "only forensic investigation with excavation" could confirm if these were actually human remains. As of May 2022, debates were ongoing on whether to conduct an archaeological excavation to exhume potential human remains or leave the site undisturbed.

The school was established in 1893, after initially opening on May 19, 1890, as the Kamloops Industrial School. The stated aim of the school was the acculturation of Indigenous children. The school was taken over by the federal government in 1969. During this time it operated as a residence for students attending other area schools until it permanently closed.

In 2021, Dr. Sarah Beaulieu, an anthropologist with "about a decade of experience searching for historical grave sites", surveyed the area with ground-penetrating radar (GPR) and observed "disruptions in the ground" which she concluded could be 200 unmarked graves, based on "their placement, size, depth, and other features". The indigenous community had long suspected that unmarked graves were located at the residential school, but no proof existed to support this. Preliminary findings announced in May 2021 by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc speculated that 215 graves could exist at the site. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation had officially recognized 51 students who died at the school. Their dates of death range from 1919 until 1971. In July 2021, Beaulieu revised her estimate to 200 and noted that they should be considered "probable burials" or "targets of interest", and said that only with an excavation could they be confirmed as human remains. Beaulieu also noted that the apple orchard she surveyed constituted only two acres of the 160-acre residential school site, and speculated that other parts of the property could also be potential burial sites. As of May 2022, no remains had been excavated, leaving the initial claim unverified.

Survivor's Support

Find support

  • National Indian Residential School Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419
  • Hope for Wellness Hotline 1-855-242-3310
  • Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society 1-888-403-3123
  • Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS) 1-800-721-0066 (reception@irsss.ca)