Unmarked Graves of Indigenous Children Discovered in Canadian Residential Schools
A discovery has recently emerged on Wednesday, June 30th, revealing the remains of nearly 751 indigenous children. The remains were found at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada. However, this burial site was not the only site discovered of these unmarked graves. Before, the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves in another former church-run school for Indigenous students in British Columbia. The remains of these children are believed to belong to the people from the bands of the Ktunaxa nation, which includes the Lower Kootenay Band, Aq’am, and other neighboring First Nation communities. This discovery has offered a shameful reminder of the systematic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced - and continue to face - in Canada.
The history behind these remains has prevailed for decades, beginning in the 1800s as indigenous children in both Canada and the United States have been taken from their families and shipped thousands of miles away in crowded, church-run boarding schools, where they were abused and prohibited from speaking their languages. The stated purpose of these residential schools was assimilation -- ridding the students of ties to their communities and instilling European culture, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). The TRC has revealed that there have been several cases of abuse and mistreatment against these indigenous students, which often led to many children not making it back home. There have been several reports of physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and illness. For example, horrific accounts have disclosed children hidden inside walls or young girls who have got pregnant by priests or monks and the children being born and put in incinerators.
So far, the federal government announced they would provide 4.9 million Canadian dollars (about $3.9 million) to indigenous communities in Saskatchewan to search for graves. The provincial government previously committed 2 million Canadian dollars ($1.6 million). After last month’s discovery, Pope Francis expressed his pain and pressed religious and political authorities to shed light on “this sad affair,” but didn’t offer an apology. Since the discovery of unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools, there have been several fires at churches across Canada. Most of the fires have been on First Nations. While churches and statues in cities have been a target for vandalism.
By Kyra Ng