Last month, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered underneath a former Indigenous boarding school in Canada. Some of these children were as young as three years old. The school, located in Kamloops, British Columbia, was a policy attempt to “assimilate” the children to Western culture. These assimilation efforts included destroying indigenous languages and cultures, and forcing the children to convert to Christianity.
The bodies were found using a ground-penetrating radar, and it’s possible there are more to find according to Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc First Nation. Kamloops Indian Residential School opened in the late 19th century and operated until the late 1970s. The Catholic Church ran the school up until the 1960s. Every body found was that of a student. The deaths of the 50 identities which were able to be determined range from 1900 to 1971, but the 165 others have no available records to do so.
A survivor of Kamloops Indian Residential School, Garry Gottfriedson, told CBS News, “We were made to feel ugly because we were told we were ugly. We were made to feel like we were nothing but dirt, and that has remained with me to this very, very day is it’s you know, I’ve never felt that I was good enough for anything.”
The recent events bring to light the discrimination and violence Indigenous peoples experienced and continue to face– in Canada and beyond. They are collectively marginalized, with one in five Native Americans having reported discrimination, for example. Additionally, 38% of Native Americans reported they or family members have experienced violence and 34% reported threatening or harassment based on information from a 2017 study. The discovery is Canada is sickening, and Indigenous peoples are in need of support and advocates as they have always been.
How to support Indigenous communities: educate yourself and research the land you’re living on, stay informed about Indigenous rights problems, include Indigenous peoples in discussions of climate change and land use, buy Indigenous products, donate to Canadian charities that help Indigenous communities in Canada, donate to Native American COVID-19 relief funds
Additional sources: BBC