A Canadian indigenous group announced on Wednesday the discovery of the remains of 751 unidentified people, mainly minors, on the grounds of a former school residence where thousands of children were forcibly interned for almost a century.
The Cowessess Indian group in western Canada’s Saskatchewan province say they discovered the graves on the grounds of the Marieval Residential School, which was in operation between 1899 and 1997, about 2,500 kilometers northwest of Toronto.
It is the second discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on former Canadian school residence grounds in recent weeks.
On May 28, Rosanne Casimir, head of the Tk’emlúps te secwépemc, an indigenous group from the province of British Columbia, also in western Canada, announced the discovery of the remains of 215 Aboriginal children buried in graves no marked at the Kamloops school residence. In both cases, the graves have been discovered using ground penetrating radar.
The head of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the group representing the country’s various indigenous groups, noted on Twitter that “news of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves in the first cowessess nation is absolutely tragic but not surprising. ” “I ask all Canadians to stand with indigenous people in these extremely difficult and emotional times,” he added.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) of Saskatchewan, which represents the 74 indigenous groups in the province, noted that it is more than likely that numerous new, unidentified graves will appear in other school residences in the coming days.
FSIN has initiated a systematic search of most of the residential schools located in Saskatchewan, more than 20, since the discovery of the human remains in Kamloops was announced.
The Indian school residence system was imposed by Canadian authorities in the late 19th century to eliminate the country’s Aboriginal culture. Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their communities and sent to boarding schools located in some cases hundreds of kilometers from their families.
Between 1890 and 1997 more than 130 residential schools operated throughout Canada and some 150,000 indigenous children were placed in these institutions that were run by religious orders, mostly Catholic.
In school residences, indigenous children were systematically subjected to physical, psychological and sexual abuse and even experimentation at the hands of government scientists.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada concluded that 1 in 50 children sent to school residences died in institutions, around 3,200 children, although this figure is considered conservative by indigenous leaders. In many cases, the families of the interned children were never notified of the deaths.