An investigation has unearthed the remains of 215 minors in a mass grave of a Canadian school that closed in 1978 and built to facilitate the integration of the indigenous population.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, where forensics are already working to determine the exact cause and date of the deaths, reports Canadian public television CBC.
The find was announced by the Indian boss Tk’emlups te Secwepemc. “As far as we know, these missing children are undocumented deaths. Some were only three years old,” said the head of the Kamloops community, Rosanne Casimir, in statements to the British broadcaster BBC.
These types of schools were founded in the 19th and 20th centuries to forcibly assimilate young Indians. They were financed by the state and run by religious organizations.
Kamloops was the largest in the country, opened under Catholic administration in 1890 and housed around 500 students at its height in the 1950s. In 1969, the federal government took over its management and converted it into a student residence. This is how it worked until it closed in 1978.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has recognized these events as “a painful reminder” of “a shameful chapter in our country’s history”.
The Minister for Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett, has criticized these internships, a manifestation of a “shameful” colonial policy, and promised to “pay tribute to these lost innocent souls”.
It is estimated that between 1863 and 1998 more than 150,000 indigenous minors were uprooted from their homes and taken to these schools, where they were not allowed to speak their language or express their culture and where ill-treatment and ill-treatment were common.
In 2015, a commission of inquiry came to the conclusion that many of the minors had never returned to their communities and thus recognized a “cultural genocide”.
The Lost Children Project has so far identified more than 4,100 minors who have died while in boarding schools, and many of them have been buried on school grounds themselves.