On Tuesday, January 25, 2022 the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), in British Columbia, Canada, held a press conference on the traumatic history of the St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School. This institution, where generations of their children were forcibly confined and abused operated from 1891 – 1981, as part of the colonial project that is now Canada.
The WLFN began an investigation nine months ago, after the Kamloops Te Secwepemc First Nation announced that evidence of more than 200 unmarked graves, potentially holding former students, were found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. What makes this announcement markedly different, is that Chief Willie Sellars outlined the methods of historical analysis they used to uncover the truth. These methods included archival research, extensive interviews with survivors, and the geophysical mapping of 14 hectares of land that makes up the site of the former St. Joseph’s Indian Residential School.
The geophysical investigation found evidence of 93 potential grave sites, and Chief Sellars framed this truth by the evidence provided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s incomplete historical record and by the recounting of survivors. Chief Sellars drew attention to the efforts by government representatives, police and clergy to cover-up this history, however, he noted that, Indian Residential School Survivors took the abusers to court and several were tried and convicted.
When First Nations share the burden of history with British Columbians and Canadians, they are speaking for the children who didn’t make it home, and we must honour the truth of this history in order to take the path to reconciliation, together.
Keenan McCarthy & Lyn Daniels
Co-Chairs – Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee
As co-chairs of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee we stand with the families whose children never returned from residential schools including the Williams Lake Indian Residential School.
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.