182 unmarked graves found near former residential school in Cranbrook

The Lower Kootenay Band made the discovery using ground-penetrating radar


A third large gravesite has been found near a residential school in Canada.

The Lower Kootenay Band says that a search using ground-penetrating radar has located the remains of 182 people.

They were in unmarked graves south of the former St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School near Cranbrook.

Some of the graves were as shallow as three to four feet.

“It is believed that the remains of these 182 souls are from the member Bands of the ktunaza nation, neighbouring First Nations communities, & the community of aqam,” the band said in a statement.

According to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, the first Kootenay or St. Eugene’s residential school opened in 1890. It was replaced in 1912.

The school was operated through much of its history by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It is a missionary congregation of the Catholic Church founded in 1816 by a French priest, Saint Eugène de Mazenod.

“An Indian Agent reported in 1935 that, as a result of poor food, overwork and sickness, he had to force parents to send their children to the school,” the IRSHDC states on its website. “Despite a change in the principal, school attendance and runaways were ongoing problems. There were also recurring outbreaks of influenza, mumps, measles, chicken pox and tuberculosis.”

The federal government took over operations of the residence in 1969 before closing it the following year.

The IRSHDC states that the students came from the following home communities: St. Mary’s; Lower Kootenay; Tobacco Plains; Lower Similkameen; Similkameen; Okanagan; Inkamoop / Inkammoep / Inkameep; Termission; Creston; Vernon; Enderby; Comox; Little Shuswap; Upper Nicola; Spallumchene / Spallumcheon / Sallumchene; North Thompson; Lake Similk.; Neskainlith; Tsartlip; Osoyoos; Penticton; Columbia Lake; Shuswap; Tsartlip; Westbank; Athelmer; Cranbrook; Kamloops; Cardston and Seabird Island.

One of the former principals, Rev. G.P. Dunlop, left in 1958 to become the head of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was also run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

On May 27, Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation disclosed that the remains of 215 Indigenous children had been found on the grounds of the former Kamloops school in unmarked graves.

Casimir said at the time that these deaths were “undocumented”. It’s not known when the bodies were buried.

That was followed by Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme’s revelation that 751 unmarked graves were found near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. It was also operated by the Catholic Church.

In the Cranbrook area, the local First Nation has converted the former residential school into the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino, which includes a 125-room hotel.

“The beautiful Spanish-colonial-styled Resort you see today was once the St. Eugene Mission, a residential school for First Nations youth,” the website states. “Today, we employ approximately 250 people and have become an entertainment destination for people across North America. The owners and associates at St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino are proudly devoted to sharing our First Nations culture as well as the history of our magnificent Resort.”

This story originally appeared in the Georgia Straight.

@charliesmithvcr

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One response to “182 unmarked graves found near former residential school in Cranbrook”

  1. After 34 years of news consumption, I have found that a disturbingly large number of categorized people, however precious their souls, can be considered thus treated as though disposable, even to an otherwise democratic nation. When the young children of those people take notice of this, tragically, they’re vulnerable to begin perceiving themselves as beings without value. Such psychological trauma can readily result in a debilitating drug addiction, a continuous attempt at silencing through self-medicating the pain of serious life trauma or PTSD.

    When I say this, I primarily have in mind indigenous-nation Canadians. But, tragically, such horrendous occurrences still happen on Earth, often enough going unrealized to the rest of the world.

    Residential schooling (et al) may not have been a genocide of an entire race of people, but it definitely was a serious attempt at annihilating their native culture(s). The indigenous children’s mass grave, as sadly anticipated as the find was (and others are expected), must not be in vain. Rather, it must mark the start of a substantial progressive move forward for indigenous nations, especially regarding life’s fundamental necessities (i.e. proper shelter and clean air, water and food).

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