Local Indigenous communities react to B.C. residential school discovery
KITCHENER -- Indigenous communities in and around the area are reacting to the horrific discovery of more than 200 bodies of children being found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
The remains of the 215 children, some as young as three, were uncovered after a preliminary survey of where the former Kamloops Indian Residential School once stood was ordered.
It’s believed the deaths were all undocumented.
The school was open until around 1969, the same time the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford was closed.
Roberta Hill, a survivor of Mohawk School, says that after living through the residential school system, she was deeply sadden by the discovery, but not surprised.
“It’s what kids have been saying, kids who are now adults who lived through the residential school, they have been saying this all along,” she said. “They know that children died. Some will tell you where they are buried.
“Every parent had a right to know when their child went to those schools, they had a right to know that they should have come home, and if they didn’t where did they go?”
Hill adds that she would support a thorough examination of other former residential schools, including the area around the former Mohawk Institute in Brantford.
The coroner’s office in BC says they are just starting their work to try to bring those families closure.
Amy Smoke, the manager of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, says the pain has been felt intergenerationally even after the last residential school in Canada closed its doors in 1996.
"we are very well aware of the children that didn't make it home," she said. "They are our family, our ancestors.
"Those children would have been elders and leaders in the community, language holders, knowledge holders."
Smoke says she wants to see more search efforts completed at residential school sites and is hopeful settlers will begin to understand their pain.
"We need you to catch up and we need you to feel the same things," she said. "The moruning, the sadness, but the anger as well."
Shawn Johnston, the cofounder of the Land Back Camp, adds that there is much more work to do.
"We are just beginning the healing process from so many years of trauma and hurt and abuse that has been done to us," he said.