The Stó:lō Nation in B.C.’s Fraser Valley providing an update on its work into missing children and unmarked burials at three former residential school sites and a former hospital.
In December 2021, the nation announced a 3-year plan to search 4 sites in Fraser Valley
Stó:lō Nation provides update on residential school site search
The First Nation has been searching for unmarked burial sites at three former residential school sites and a former hospital in B.C.’s Fraser Valley since December 2021.
WARNING: This story contains distressing details.
A First Nation in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley is expected to provide an update today on its work into missing children and unmarked burials at three former residential school sites and a former hospital.
In December 2021, the Stó:lō Nation announced a three-year plan to search the grounds of St. Mary’s Residential School in Mission, Coqualeetza Industrial Institute/Residential School in Chilliwack, All Hallows School in Yale, and the Coqualeetza Indian Hospital.
Officials with the nation will provide a public update over the work on Thursday afternoon at the site of Pekw’xe:yles (St. Mary’s Residential School) about 60 kilometres east of Vancouver.
CBC News will stream the event live.
The undertaking by the Stó:lō was launched following news that ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be more than 200 graves at a former� residential school in Kamloops in May 2021.
Similar searches and findings have or are taking place in several provinces across Canada.
The Stó:lō First Nation says it put in place a team called Xyolhmet ye Syewiqwelh (Taking Care of Children) to study archival, oral historical and on-site remote sensing work in search of identifiable unmarked graves at the four sites.
The nation says it also used remote sensing and imaging technologies including drone-based lidar (light detection and ranging) surface mapping and photogrammetry, as well as ground-penetrating radar, to search for unmarked graves.
“Major goals of our work are to identify Stó:lō children who were sent to residential schools — anywhere — and did not return home,” said a statement on the nation’s website in March 2022.
More than 150,000 children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada from the 1830s until the final school closed in 1997. The institutions were created by the Canadian government to assimilate Indigenous people, in part by forcibly separating children from their parents.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission said large numbers of Indigenous children who were sent to the institutions never returned home. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation says around 4,100 children died at the schools, based on death records, but adds that the true total is likely much higher.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
With files from The Canadian Press