Dates of Operation
January 1, 1899 – August 31, 1959

 

The recent discovery of unmarked graves at the site of St. Paul's Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, has sent shockwaves throughout Canada and the world.

The graves, believed to contain the remains of Indigenous children who attended the school, have brought renewed attention to the dark history of residential schools in Canada and the legacy of trauma that continues to impact Indigenous communities today. This article will explore the discovery of the unmarked graves and its significance, as well as the history and impact of residential schools on Indigenous peoples in Canada. We will also examine the aftermath of the discovery and the ways in which Canadians can support Indigenous communities and work towards healing and reconciliation.

The Discovery of Unmarked Graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School


The discovery of unmarked graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School, located on the Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation in Kamloops, British Columbia, is a heartbreaking reminder of the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples in Canada. In May 2021, it was announced that ground-penetrating radar had uncovered the remains of 215 children who attended the school between 1890 and 1978.

Details of the Discovery


The ground-penetrating radar was used in order to locate gravesites. The discovery shocked the community and the nation at large as it revealed the true number of Indigenous children who lost their lives at the school. The burial sites were undocumented and unmarked, leading to questions about the circumstances of their deaths and why they were not properly documented.

Impact on Indigenous Communities


The discovery has been particularly difficult for Indigenous communities who have been advocating for answers and justice for many years. It is a reminder of the ongoing trauma that residential schools have caused and the intergenerational effects that continue to impact Indigenous people's lives. The Tk'emlúps te Secwepemc First Nation has vowed to identify and honour the remains of the children who were buried at the school.

The History of Residential Schools in Canada

 

Origins and Purpose of Residential Schools


Residential schools were established in Canada in the 19th century by the Canadian government and various Christian denominations with the explicit goal of assimilating Indigenous children into Canadian society. Children were forcibly removed from their families and sent to residential schools where they were punished for speaking their own languages and practicing their own cultural traditions.

Systemic Abuse and Trauma


The residential school system was characterized by systemic abuse and trauma. Children were often physically and sexually abused and were subjected to neglect and malnourishment. The goal of assimilation was prioritized over the safety and well-being of Indigenous children, resulting in generations of trauma and loss. It is estimated that over 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools, and thousands never returned home.

The Indigenous Experience at St. Paul's Indian Residential School

 

Life at the School


The Indigenous children who attended St. Paul's Indian Residential School were stripped of their cultural identity and were forced to adopt Christian beliefs and practices. Children faced harsh discipline, restrictions on their communication with family and isolation from their communities. They were also subjected to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Survivors' Testimonies


Survivors of St. Paul's Indian Residential School have spoken out about the atrocities they experienced and witnessed. They have shared stories of emotional and physical abuse, the loss of their language and cultural identity, and the isolation they endured. These testimonies are a vital part of understanding the ongoing trauma and effects of the residential school system.

The Significance of the Unmarked Graves

 

Possible Causes of Unmarked Graves


The unmarked graves discovered at St. Paul's Indian Residential School raise questions about the circumstances behind the children's deaths. It is possible that some of the children died from illness or disease, while others may have died from abuse or neglect. The lack of documentation and oversight allowed for these deaths to go unnoticed and unreported.

The Importance of Identifying the Remains


Identifying the remains of the children buried at St. Paul's Indian Residential School is critical in acknowledging and honouring their lives. It is also essential in bringing closure to families and communities who have been searching for answers for decades. The identification process provides an opportunity to hold responsible parties accountable and to promote healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.The recent discovery of unmarked graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School has sent shockwaves across Canada. The news has sparked conversations about Canada's dark history of residential schools and the ongoing impact of this traumatic legacy on Indigenous communities. In this article, we will explore the aftermath of the discovery, calls to action and ways to move forward, the importance of acknowledging and addressing Canada's dark history, and strategies for supporting Indigenous communities and healing from trauma.

The Aftermath of the Discovery


The discovery of unmarked graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School has left many Indigenous communities reeling with grief and trauma. The residential school system was designed to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture and to erase their language, culture, and traditions. Thousands of children were taken from their families and sent to residential schools, where many suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The discovery of unmarked graves is a stark reminder of the horrific conditions that Indigenous children were forced to endure.

Reactions from the Public and Government


The discovery of unmarked graves has led to an outpouring of grief and anger from Indigenous communities and many Canadians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called on the Catholic Church to take responsibility for its role in the residential school system and to release all records related to the schools. The government has also pledged millions of dollars to support Indigenous communities in their efforts to identify and commemorate the children who died at residential schools.

Steps Taken to Investigate and Address the Issue


Indigenous communities have been calling for a full investigation into the deaths of children at residential schools for years. In the wake of the discovery of unmarked graves, many communities are renewing their calls for justice. The government has vowed to support communities in their efforts to identify the remains and to provide support for healing. However, many are calling for more action to address the ongoing impacts of the residential school system, including intergenerational trauma.

Calls to Action and Moving Forward


The discovery of unmarked graves has highlighted the urgent need for truth and reconciliation in Canada. Indigenous communities have been calling for accountability and justice for decades, but many feel that their voices have not been heard. Moving forward, it is essential to address the ongoing impacts of the residential school system and to support Indigenous communities in their healing journey.

Importance of Truth and Reconciliation


Truth and reconciliation require acknowledging the wrongs committed in the past and working towards healing and justice. This means acknowledging the truth about the residential school system and its ongoing impacts on Indigenous communities. It also means working to rebuild trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Ways to Support Indigenous Communities


There are many ways to support Indigenous communities in their healing journey. This includes learning about the history of residential schools, listening to Indigenous voices, and supporting efforts to address the ongoing impacts of colonialism. It also means supporting Indigenous-led healing initiatives and advocating for government action to address the harms of the residential school system.

The Importance of Acknowledging and Addressing Canada's Dark History


Canada has a long history of exploitation and oppression of Indigenous peoples. The residential school system was just one part of this history, and its impacts are still being felt today. Acknowledging and addressing this history is essential for healing and reconciliation.

The Need for Acknowledgement and Accountability


Acknowledging Canada's dark history requires taking responsibility for past harms. This means acknowledging the role that the government and churches played in the residential school system and committing to supporting Indigenous communities in their efforts to heal and rebuild.

Addressing the Ongoing Legacy of Residential Schools


The legacy of residential schools is vast and ongoing. Indigenous peoples continue to experience trauma, poverty, and discrimination as a result of this history. Addressing this legacy requires systemic change, including reforms to the justice system, the establishment of fair and equitable land rights, and greater support for Indigenous-led initiatives.

Strategies for Supporting Indigenous Communities and Healing from Trauma


Supporting Indigenous communities in their healing journey requires a multi-faceted approach. This includes community-led healing initiatives, education and awareness, and systemic change.

Community-led Healing Initiatives


Indigenous communities have been developing healing initiatives for decades, including land-based healing programs, cultural revitalization programs, and community-led health and wellness initiatives. Supporting these programs is essential for promoting healing and resilience in Indigenous communities.

Education and Awareness


Education and awareness are essential for promoting understanding and empathy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. This includes learning about the history of residential schools and the ongoing impacts of colonialism. It also means listening to Indigenous voices and amplifying their messages.

In conclusion, the discovery of unmarked graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School has highlighted the urgent need for truth and reconciliation in Canada. Acknowledging and addressing Canada's dark history is essential for healing and reconciliation. Supporting Indigenous communities in their healing journey requires a multi-faceted approach, including community-led healing initiatives, education and awareness, and systemic change.The discovery of unmarked graves at St. Paul's Indian Residential School is a painful reminder of the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples in Canada. We must continue to acknowledge and address this dark chapter in our history, and work towards healing and reconciliation with Indigenous communities. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that these tragic events are never forgotten and that we strive towards a brighter and more equitable future for all.

FAQ



What were residential schools in Canada?


Residential schools were a network of government-funded and church-run schools that were designed to assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society. Children were taken from their families and communities and forced to attend these schools, where they were forbidden to speak their language or practice their culture. The schools were notorious for the systemic abuse, neglect, and trauma that Indigenous children experienced.

How many residential schools were there in Canada?


There were over 130 residential schools in Canada, operating from the 1870s until the last school closed in 1996. It is estimated that over 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools over the course of the system's history.

What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada?


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The TRC was tasked with documenting the history and legacy of residential schools, and with facilitating reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. The TRC held public hearings across the country, where survivors of residential schools shared their testimonies and experiences. The TRC's final report, released in 2015, included 94 calls to action to address the ongoing legacy of residential schools and to promote reconciliation.

How can Canadians support Indigenous communities?


There are many ways that Canadians can support Indigenous communities. This includes educating oneself on the history and legacy of residential schools, supporting Indigenous-led initiatives and organizations, advocating for the implementation of the TRC's calls to action, and engaging in dialogue and relationship-building with Indigenous peoples and communities. It is important to approach these actions with humility, empathy, and a willingness to listen and learn.

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)