An enquiry has disclosed 182 human remains in unmarked graves at a new residential school in British Columbia.
The Lower Kootenay Band, a member band of the Ktunaxa Nation, has declared that remains were found at the former St. Eugene’s Mission School near Cranbrook.
This declaration comes after hundreds of unmarked graves believed to contain the remains of Indigenous children were recently found at the sites of two other former boarding schools in Canada, and many First Nations communities have called for a halt to Canada Day celebrations Thursday.
“It is believed that the remains of these 182 souls are from the member Bands of the Ktunaxa nation, neighbouring First Nations communities, & the community of aqam,” the Lower Kootenay Band mentioned in a statement released Wednesday.
A search organised by the Aqam community using ground-penetrating radar revealed that some human remains were buried in shallow graves only 3 to 4 feet deep. Aqam is a member community of the Ktunaxa Nation.
Almost 100 Lower Kootenay Band members were mandatory to attend the St. Eugene’s Mission School. The residential school was functioned by the Roman Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s, the statement mentioned. The Canadian government mandated indigenous children aged 7 to 15 to attend schools.
“The Lower Kootenay Band is still in the very early stages of receiving information from the reports of the findings but will provide updates as time progresses,” the statement mentioned. “The Lower Kootenay Band has living survivors of the St. Eugene’s Mission School & requests that the general public respect our privacy at this time.”
The unearthing of human remains at the sites of former residential schools comes as Canadian authorities are exploring multiple fires that devastated four Catholic churches on Indigenous land in the past week.
They are the newest in a string of recent events impacting the country’s Indigenous communities. The churches were demolished as Canada meets its history of systemic abuse of Indigenous communities.