Kamloops residential school burial site confirms elders' stories of abuse: Tk'emlups Chief | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops residential school burial site confirms elders' stories of abuse: Tk'emlups Chief

A plaque is seen outside of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins

Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir held back tears at a virtual news conference this afternoon when she spoke about the impact the discovery of a burial site with 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has had on her community and other First Nations communities.

The findings were confirmation of the stories Secwepemc Elders told of abuses they witnessed or experienced while attending the residential school.

"It's a harsh reality and it's our truth. It's our history, and something we've always had to fight to prove," Chief Casimir said. "To me it's always been something denied be government."

To say that it's been a difficult time for her and the community would be an understatement. The findings, Casimir said, are opening up old wounds and triggering traumas for the community, especially Elders who had experiences with the school.

Efforts are underway to connect with families and communities whose children had gone missing over the years of the school's operation.

Casimir said the next steps in the findings are to approach in the "most honourable way possible."

READ MORE: Remains of 215 children found at former residential school in Kamloops

"It is an honour to be taking care of these children," she said. "The biggest thing we could start with is ceremony."

Community members and leaders from nearly all of the 17 Secwepemc communities came to the Tk'emlups powwow arbor for a ceremony today, May 28, to honour the victims of Canada's residential school system.

But she fears there are more remains to find, as there is much more land around the school to search.

The current findings are preliminary and the full report from the study won't be released until mid-June.

The studies were started by Tk'emlups community leaders and aided by a Pathway to Healing provincial grant, but Casimir said the federal government needs to "step up."

"They need to assist us... We know there's been generations of that information shared, but never anything concrete and documented," she said. "We know there's more to be discovered."

READ MORE: Communities in mourning after children found buried at former Kamloops residential school

The study remains in the early stages, but the community believes families affected are spread not only across the province, but into Alberta and Yukon too.

"As a mother, and grandmother, it was devastating to hear this. I'm trying to imagine what other parents and grandparents were going through (when they learned)," Casimir said.

Although the confirmation of burial sites around the former school is tragic and heartbreaking for the community, Casimir looks forward to collaborating with more community leaders on the project.

Kamloops RCMP said it is working with Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community leaders to determine the next steps and the best way for police to involved and will be following their lead on the release of information.

RCMP are also asking the public to respect the band's request to not go to the Heritage Park home to the residential school. It is currently closed as the sensitive work continues on site.

"We share the community’s sadness in learning of the recent discovery," Kamloops RCMP Supt. Sydney Lecky said in a media release. "We are mindful that news of the discovery may evoke memories of trauma and emotions. We encourage anyone who needs help to please reach out."

Support is available by calling the 24-hour National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

— This story was updated at 3:46 p.m. Friday, May 28, 2021 to add comment from RCMP.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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