Syilx Okanagan Nation calls on provincial and federal governments to directly address atrocities of Kamloops Indian Residential School | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Syilx Okanagan Nation calls on provincial and federal governments to directly address atrocities of Kamloops Indian Residential School

The former Kamloops Indian Residential School is seen on Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. on Thursday, May 27, 2021. The remains of 215 children have been found buried on the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Snucins
May 29, 2021 - 7:00 PM

The discovery of 215 children’s remains at the Kamloops Indian Residential School demonstrates that the violence and abuse of Canada’s residential school system “far exceeded what was previously reported,” Syilx Okanagan Nation said in a statement released today.

Syilx Okanagan Nation said it is “shocked and profoundly saddened" by the May 27 discovery and that children from across many First Nation’s attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

"This revelation is felt by every Syilx Okanagan family,” they said. 

This discovery, they said, has confirmed what its community's survivors and families have known and feared all along; "that the violence and abuse far exceeded what was previously reported."

“The legacy of the Indian Residential School system has had devastating impacts on the Syilx Okanagan Nation that continue to be felt today. The level of inhumane and criminal treatment of First Nation’s children at the hands of colonial governments and organized religion is deeply disturbing. We are calling on the Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada to directly address these atrocities,” Chief Clarence Louie said in a statement.

While the families, communities and Nations process this unthinkable discovery, it is important to remember the intense grief that Syilx Okanagan people and all Indian Residential School survivors will feel over the coming days, weeks, months and years.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief and Council hosted an urgent chiefs meeting today, and Chief Clarence Louie thanked the Tk’emlups Chief and Council for arranging, affirming affirmed that “the Syilx Okanagan Nation are ready to participate and support wherever possible.”

As part of a collective, nationwide response, the Syilx Indian Residential School Committee is also asking that all members reach out to survivors and family members to check in and see if they need support.

Also expressing support for Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation was Kelowna mayor Colin Basran, who said he was sickened by the news that at least 215 children are buried on the grounds of the former residential school in Kamloops.
“The discovery of the remains confirms what survivors of the residential school system have been saying about missing children for decades. The misery of this discovery also re-emphasizes our nation’s need to engage in reconciliation with our Indigenous friends and neighbours,” Basran said in a statement.
“All we can do right now is express is our deepest condolences to the generations of families who continue to live with their own grief wrought by the residential school system – and now the confirmation of innocent, helpless children who were doomed by that nightmarish system.”

Basran said on behalf of his Council colleagues and the citizens of Kelowna, he wanted to express admiration and support to Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation for her leadership.

“She and the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community have pledged to collaborate and heal together through the investigation into this horrific discovery,” he said.

The Kamloops residential school operated between 1890 and 1969. The federal government took over the facility's operation from the Catholic Church and ran it as a day school until it closed in 1978.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission has records of at least 51 children dying at the school between 1915 and 1963.

Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation said the remains of children as young as three years old, were confirmed last weekend with the help of ground-penetrating radar.

She described the discovery as "an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented at the Kamloops Indian Residential School."

It's believed more bodies may be found because there are more areas to search in the school grounds.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society has a 24/7 emergency crisis: 1-800-721-0066. KU-US Crisis Line Society also provides a 24-hour provincial Indigenous crisis line: Adults call 250-723-4050; children and youth call 250-723-2040; or toll-free 1-800-588-8717.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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