Canada: Unmarked graves of indigenous kids found at former school
The unmarked graves of hundreds more indigenous children have been discovered at the site of a residential school in Canada. Through these schools, indigenous children were "assimilated" into society. These unmarked graves reveal the horrifying history of indigenous populations in what is now being recognized as "cultural genocide." The United States is also looking into its own history with the Native American population.
At least 751 unmarked graves—most of the indigenous children—were found on Thursday at the site of a former Catholic school, Marieval Indian Residential School, in Regina, Saskatchewan. Canada's indigenous people—First Nations, Inuit, and Metis—are those whose ancestors originally inhabited the country until it was colonized by European nations. Last month, 215 children's remains were found in a former Kamloops residential school in British Colombia.
The unmarked graves of the children who are believed to have died at these schools were found by Cowessess First Nation—among the 634 First Nations governments/bands recognized by the Canadian government. Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said they had started scanning the area on June 2 using ground-penetrating radar. Delorme said he expected to find more bodies.
For decades, some survivors of these boarding schools have told stories about children who disappeared from there. The residential school system—operational between the 1880s and the late 1990s—was established by the Canadian government to "civilize" and "assimilate" indigenous children into Canadian society. Indigenous children were forced to attend these "sorely underfunded" Church-run schools, where they were often abused and had their indigenous identities suppressed.
The children were also subjected to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and violence at these schools. Some of the survivors claimed that babies born to female students, impregnated by priests and monks, were killed and tossed into furnaces.
Over six years, the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission—established by Canada in 2008—collected testaments from 6,750 witnesses to document Canada's history. The commission termed the system a form of "cultural genocide." It had previously estimated that 4,100 children went missing from 150 residential schools. However, Murray Sinclair—the former judge who headed the commission—reportedly said the figure could be "well beyond 10,000."
Chief Delorme urged Pope Francis to apologize, calling the Roman Catholic Church to address its actions. The Archbishop of Regina, Don Bolen, wrote in a letter to the Cowessess group, "The truth of that past needs to come out, however painful."
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said, "These findings only deepen the pain that families, survivors, and all indigenous peoples and communities are already feeling, and that they reaffirm a truth that they have long known." "Canada's responsibility to bear, and the government will continue to provide indigenous communities across the country with the funding and resources they need to bring these terrible wrongs to light."
The United States is also planning to "reflect on past federal policies to culturally assimilate indigenous peoples in the United States." The US Department of the Interior launched the "Indian boarding school investigative initiative" on Tuesday. It will conduct a similar ground-penetrating radar survey to identify such boarding schools and track down possible burial sites of Native American children near the premises.