If you need emotional support, the National Indian Residential School Crisis Hotline can be reached at 1-866-925-4419
Williams Lake First Nation in British Columbia says a preliminary geophysical investigation has identified 93 reflections that could indicate the number of children buried around the site of a former residential school.
Chief Willie Sellers says only excavation would confirm the presence of human remains and much more work is needed to make final determinations.
“This journey has led our investigation team into the darkest recesses of human behaviour,” Sellers says. “Our team has not only recorded stories involving the murder and disappearance of children and infants they have listened to countless stories of systematic torture, starvation, rape, and sexual assault of children at St. Josephs Mission.”
According to Sellers, out of the 93 reflections, 43 may be associated with a historic cemetery – and the remaining 50 are not.
He says 14 of 470 hectares around the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School have so far been examined as part of a process to discover what happened to children who didn’t return home.
“In 1902 three children ran away from the school as a result of these conditions – one of those children died,” Sellers says. “He was eight years old he died from exposure, freezing to death alone and outside while attempting to escape the physical and sexual abuses at the St. Josephs Mission.
“His name was Duncan Sticks.”
Williams Lake is located about 540 km north of Vancouver.
The investigation near Williams Lake comes after the use of ground-penetrating radar led to the discovery last year of what are believed to be 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.
Searches are ongoing at a number of schools across the country as communities use various forms of technology to search for lost children.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated the number at around 4,000.
The St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School operated from 1891 until 1981.
With files from the Canadian Press