The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

Work underway for forensics experts to identify B.C. school remains

The best way forward is to provide supports to the Tk’emlúps nation and those who may have lost a loved one, says Terry Teegee

Plans are being made to identify and return home the remains of more than 200 children found buried at the site of a former residential school in British Columbia’s Interior, says a provincial Indigenous leader.

The Kamloops Indian Band wants to undertake the “heart-wrenching” process to eventually tell the stories of the children and bring peace to their families, said Terry Teegee, Assembly of First Nations regional chief.

The effort could involve the B.C. Coroners Service, the Royal B.C. Museum and forensics experts, he said.

Teegee said he has been meeting with Indigenous leaders from across B.C. to decide what steps to take next.

“Really, I think what needs to occur is perhaps some sort of discovery and perhaps some forensics about who these children were, where are they from if that’s possible,” he said in an interview from Prince George.

“And perhaps repatriation to their respective communities because the students come from not only the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc area but also neighbouring communities and as far north as Fort Nelson,” he said.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar.

She described the discovery as “an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.”

Teegee said he spoke with Casimir about the discovery of the remains and to offer the support of Indigenous leaders and groups from across Canada.

He said they discussed what the best way forward would be to continue the search and provide supports to the Tk’emlúps nation and those who may have lost a loved one.

Casimir said on Friday that more bodies may be found because there are more areas to search in the school grounds.

Teegee said the investigation may require working with the Royal B.C. Museum on how to best manage the area and it could also mean exhuming the remains with the goal of repatriating the children to their communities.

The discovery of the remains confirms the many comments from school survivors about children disappearing, he said.

“I think it speaks to those stories of those children who said, ‘There were always stories of these burials, and whatever happened to this kid who went missing in a supposedly random way,’” he said.

Dan Muzyka, board chair of the Royal BC Museum, said his team is providing support to the Nation by searching records held in the BC Archives for historical information related to deaths or burials at the school.

“The most significant, relevant records in the BC Archives are those of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the religious order that operated the school,” Muzyka said in a statement.

“The museum is committed to fully supporting the Nation through this archival research.”

Prof. Nicole Schabus, of the law faculty at Thompson Rivers University, said each of her first-year law students at the Kamloops university spends at least one day at the former residential school speaking with survivors.

“I’m so grateful to the survivors who had so generously shared their stories,” she said.

Schabus said she did not hear survivors talk about an unmarked grave area, “but they all talk about the kids who didn’t make it.”

Survivors started calling her Thursday when the discovery was made public, saying they can’t sleep because the reports triggered horrible childhood memories, she said.

Teegee said the Kamloops discovery has shed more light on Canada’s dark residential school history.

“This really resurfaces the issue of residential schools and the wounds from this legacy of genocide towards Indigenous people,” he said.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility’s operation from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.

Canada

Just Posted

The Kus-kus-sum site had been a sawmill on the Courtenay River. File photo
Restoration of Kus-kus-sum area in Courtenay to begin June 21

Restoration at the Kus-kus-sum site will begin June 21. This will be… Continue reading

The Bayview is temporarily closed to deal with the effects of a sprinkler in one room that was tampered with. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Bayview Hotel in Courtenay closed for now due to water mess

Hotel clarifies that only one sprinkler was tampered with and activated

A rendering shows a “mini urban bazaar” for very small businesses hub proposed in Cumberland. File image, Cumberland staff report
Urban bazaar proposal in Cumberland takes next step

Council approved permit applications but have some concerns about parking

Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)
Something’s brewing with North Island College’s newest program

Port Alberni grad Ellie Hadley hopes to turn new skills into thriving business

Nurse and educator Carol Tinga was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. The community has raised more than $89,000 to help reduce financial stress so that Tinga and her family and focus on treatment and enjoy their time together. Photo submitted
Valley stepping up to support nurse who cared for many

A fundraiser has raised more than $89,000 for Carol Tinga who was diagnosed with cancer

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the raft regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Seth Rogan’s vibrant orange sculpture was sold for $7,000 above Vancouver Art Gallery’s initial estimation at auction Tuesday. June 15. (Heffel Fine Arts)
Vase made by Seth Rogen sells for $12,000 at Vancouver auction

The B.C.-born comedian has a new pot habit and it’s paying off

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

Most Read