Abnormalities Found... No, that is the Grave of a First Nations Child

The discovery of 215 unmarked graves, mostly of children who attended the Kamloops residential school seems almost like old news at this point, though it was only discovered just a year ago in May 2021.

A 4,000-page report in 2015 by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission

detailed harsh mistreatment at the schools, including emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of children, and at least 4,100 deaths at the institutions. The report cited records of at least 51 children dying at the Kamloops school between 1914 and 1963. Health officials in 1918 believed children at the school were not being adequately fed, leading to malnutrition, the report noted. The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over operations from the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

Thousands of children died, and by all accounts the records from many schools are woefully incomplete, meaning the number of children who died is likely much higher than what is currently known. More unmarked gravesites have been discovered at the residential school sites across Canada and still continue to be found. No excavation of these little bodies has started because no one knows what to do. If they are kept where they were buried, they may never be identified, but if they are removed from their unmarked grace, their remains and spirit may be disturbed.

There is no consensus among survivors of residential schools and among First Nations leaders because there is such a divide on wanting the children to remain at peace.

The question is, can the child remain at peace as an unknown entity buried at a place they more than likely suffered from abuse? Can the children even be identified? The schools did not keep great records when it came to the deaths of the children under their so-called care.

Even with these questions, one thing that can be agreed on is that “Every Child Matters”. These children in unmarked graves are the graves of children who never got to come home. Despite this truth being something communities knew for decades, it took the use of scientific methods to locate potential unmarked graves of children buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to garner the attention of non-Indigenous people, both in Canada and globally.

Indigenous communities across the country are working to find the specific locations where children may be buried.

Ground-penetrating radar and other technologies are now being mobilized to try to narrow down where graves may be found to mark, commemorate and investigate what happened to children. Each new potential gravesite of residential school children is reported as an anomaly, it is true that none of these graves have been dug up, but the fact that certain places are mass grave sites of young children is an open secret. Many Indigenous communities knew of their existence but until the site in Kamloops was discovered, the Federal and Provincial governments failed to take it seriously.

Every Child Matters! They should not be considered an anomaly, especially considering how many ‘anomalies’ have been discovered. They should be reported as the potential burial sites of an Indigenous child. Each grave represents a beloved member of a family who was forced from their community. Each grave represents a story of a child stolen, stolen of their culture, their families, and their lives. Every family that lost their children to this genocide deserves answers. Reconciliation is not a possibility without finding and accepting the truth. The truth can not be turned away or denied.

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