Researchers have found the remains of 215 Indigenous children on the property of a former boarding school in Canada.
Rosanne Casimir, the chief of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, formerly known as the Kamloops Indian Band, first confirmed the discovery on Thursday.
Radar devices were used during the search at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School near the city of Kamloops in British Columbia, Casimir said.
“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” said Casimir, adding that some of the children were as young as 3 years old.
The cause of the deaths was still unknown.
Canada’s residential schools were institutions run by the government or the church to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children.
For decades, thousands of children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools, where they had to learn the traditions of European colonialists to forget their own culture. Violence and sexual abuse were common in these schools.
According to Casimir, the Kamloops Residential School was one of the largest in Canada, operating between 1890 and 1978 under the auspices of the Catholic Church and later the government.
Up to 500 boys and girls stayed at the school under horrible conditions, with many suffering from hunger, Casimir said.
According to a 2015 government report on Canada’s residential schools, the Kamloops institution was also extremely unhygienic and many children died of measles, tuberculosis or influenza.
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