Recent Discoveries in Residential Schools in Kamloops and Cowessess

June 30, 2021

Last week Cowessess First Nation announced a preliminary finding of 751 unmarked graves at a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School on Treaty Four Territory in Saskatchewan.

This discovery follows the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc nation’s news in May that remains of 215 children were found buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

We grieve these tragedies, we bear witness to the pain and loss, and we acknowledge that these findings represent only some of the children taken from their families and communities who never returned from residential schools.

Our hearts are with the families whose children were lost and survivors of all residential schools. 

At this moment we are again reminded of the harms and mistakes of the past and present, and of our collective responsibility to listen and acknowledge how these actions continue to impact Indigenous people across Canada.

The message from the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc nation when sharing the news from the Kamloops Residential School was that these findings confirm knowledge their community already held.  As engineers and other professionals whose work impacts land across BC, this reinforces the importance of standing beside and consulting with Indigenous people and their communities in the work that we do. 

There is information and knowledge held by indigenous people and their communities that, for many reasons, has not been recorded in a way that aligns with colonial expectations, emphasizing the importance of meaningful and genuine consultation.

Our Association is committed to understanding how our words and actions may harm indigenous people, to acknowledge the impact of past practices, and to make necessary changes to build inclusive, respectful relationships. Reconciliation is a journey; one that can lead to meaningful change, but also one that includes mistakes and discomfort along the way. We welcome these changes and the discomfort, knowing that we have a responsibility to take actions that support reconciliation.

We encourage all members to review the 94 Calls in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, and to advance the five recommendations resulting from the Engineers and Geoscientists BC review considered primary duties of professional registrants – Education, Language and Culture, Professional Development and Training, Business and Reconciliation, and Missing Children and Burial Information.  Please join with us to consider how we can  in our own way, take steps to move forward together in a spirit of lasting and meaningful reconciliation.

How can you help? Listen, learn, and help share the story of all the children who were sent to residential schools and never returned to their home communities.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Missing Children Project

The exact number of children who died at school may never be known, but the death rates for many schools, particularly during times of epidemic or disease, were very high. Working with Survivors and Aboriginal organizations, the Missing Children Projects is documenting the deaths and the burial places of children who died while attending the schools.

To date the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has identified the names of, or information about, more than 4,100 children who died of disease or accident while attending a residential school. This information will be compiled into a national register that will hold all of the information we know about these children.

Click here to learn about how you can help the Missing Children Project.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society – British Columbia has opened their telephone support line for anyone requiring emotional assistance. Call toll-free at 1-800-721-0066 or the 24-hour Crisis Line 1-866-925-4419.

Please consult the Indian Residential School Survivors Society to learn more and offer financial support.

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