Investigative team finds 66 graves of Indigenous children at former residential school in British Columbia run by Catholic Oblates order.
An investigative team has found 66 more potential unmarked graves at a former residential school in British Columbia, the Williams Lake First Nation [WLFN] said at a press conference.
The announcement of the discovery on Wednesday brings the number to 159 found at the former St Joseph's Mission Residential School — 93 were uncovered in May 2021.
But the location of the potential graves is only part of the story, Chief Willie Sellars said.
Run by the Catholic Oblates order, thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend the Mission operated between 1886 and 1981.
Sellars said there are reports of children disappearing or dying on the mission grounds, with some bodies cast into rivers or incinerated.
The stories were "intentionally obscured" through coverups by governments, the church and police, Sellars said.
Also known as the Cariboo school, nine boys ran away from the school in 1902 and one died of exposure.
Another nine ate poisonous water hemlock in what is believed to be a response to harsh discipline.
Sellars said in a written statement that Indigenous bands across Canada need to come together and help heal together as more bodies of children and stories of abuse and death are uncovered.
"As many communities across the country start or continue their investigations into Indian Residential Schools, we must work together to support each other, uplift each other, and ultimately move forward in a positive direction for our people and our communities," he said.
"We will continue to pursue the truth and we will continue to seek justice for those children and their families."
At an afternoon press conference the Williams Lake First Nation announced the discovery of 66 potential human burial.Last year the Nation found 93 through their investigation into the former St.Joseph’s Mission Residential School. pic.twitter.com/V8m6gsYYpd— Melanie Nagy (@MelanieNagyCTV) January 25, 2023
Over 4,100 Indigenous children died
More than 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend the 139 Indian Residential Schools.
The first one opened around 1825 and the last closed in the 1990s.
The schools were funded by the Canadian government and run by various religious denominations.
Their mission was to wipe out Indigenous traditions and assimilate the children into white culture.
More than 4,100 children are thought to have died in the schools, sometimes buried in mass graves and at other times in graves that, if they were marked, became obscured over the years.
More than 1,900 unmarked graves have been uncovered to date.