Indigenous leaders and academics in British Columbia are advocating for the preservation of historical residential school sites, saying that the graves of 215 children discovered in Kamloops, B.C., are likely only a fraction of the thousands who perished while the institutions were open.
It’s only a matter of time, according to Linc Kesler, director of the University of British Columbia’s First Nations House of Learning, before the same type of technology used by the Tk’emlps te Secwépemc First Nation reveals more physical evidence of the horrors of residential schools across Canada.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, agreed that the residential school sites should be protected. Terry Teegee, Regional Chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations said he, too, wants the sites to be conserved, but that bureaucratic red tape has added layers of complexity.
The Tk’emlps te Secwépemc First Nation began the search for the dead 20 years ago, according to Teegee. He stated that removing hurdles and providing the resources needed to find and remember all of the children who went missing while attending residential schools would require cooperation from all levels of government.
On Saturday evening, more than 100 people gathered in front of the holy fire at the Kamloops residential school site, standing shoulder to shoulder to mourn the children who never returned home. On Saturday, Marie Narcisse was among the attendees. Her dad and she both went to school as children.
On Sunday, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said there will be a debrief with the nation’s membership this week, adding that other chiefs across Canada are having similar conversations with their communities as well.