How Many Indigenous Children Will Be Recovered?
182 found in Cranbrook, B.C. today
On June 24th, Cowessess First Nation announced the nation had located a suspected 751 unmarked grave sites on the Marieval property. Some of those buried may have been adults, Cowessess First Nation Delorme said, and the margin of error for the technology used means the number of graves could be fewer, but no fewer than 600.
“This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves,” said Cowessess Chief Cadmus Delorme told CBC.
The Marieval Indian Residential School was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1899 to 1997 in the area where Cowessess is now located in southeastern Saskatchewan. It is not yet clear if all of the remains are linked to the school.
The sheer discrepancy between the eight students identified to have died at Marieval, and the hundreds of graves found on the site speaks volumes about the “harrowing” task ahead in locating and identifying all children who died in Canada’s residential school system.
No one yet knows just how many children in total there were, but the discoveries in Kamloops, B.C., and Marieval may be just the beginning - that the ‘total number’ is almost certainly a magnitude higher than initially documented in the limited reports shared with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC number was at 3,201 children was already high and indicated a mortality rate for residential schoolchildren at least two times higher than that of the general population before 1950. The memorial adds names on an ongoing basis, and has added 980 more since the initial report, bringing the registered total of Indigenous children dying at a residential school to beyond 4,000. Of those, 2,040 were named and they were memorialized by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
Justice Murray Sinclair, former senator and chair of the TRC, has long said the number of children who died at these institutions is likely much higher. After the revelation that 215 unmarked graves had been found at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, Sinclair estimated, in interviews, the numbers could be as high as 15,000 to 25,000. He emphasized that we will not know for sure until more searches are done, and more documents are gathered and analyzed.
“If you just extrapolate the number of children at this school to the 138 schools listed in the settlement agreement,” he said in one radio interview this month on the Kamloops discovery. “We know that the number is much larger.”
The Roman Catholic church, which was responsible for the operations of up to 70% of residential schools, has not yet issued a formal apology.
Cities in the provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have cancelled upcoming celebrations for Canada Day on 1 July in protest, and statues of figures involved with residential schools, including Canada’s first Prime Minister John A Macdonald, have been vandalized or removed throughout the country.
The Cowessess First Nation lit 750 individual lights on the site of a former residential school in Sask. on Saturday to honor those buried in unmarked graves.
As of June 23, 2021; 1,505 graves have been recovered; Kamloops British Columbia 215, Brandon, Manitoba 104, Regina, Saskatchewan 38, Cowessess, Saskatchewan 751, Lestock Saskatchewan 35, Cranbrook British Columbia 182 and Carlisle, Pennsylvania 180 children.