Ahousaht First Nation shares phase one results in search for missing residential school children

Ahousaht First Nation shares phase one results in search for missing residential school children
Ahousaht is seen in this file photo.

The Ahousaht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s west coast has released the results of phase one in the search for missing children who attended two residential schools in their traditional territories.

The team behind the ʔahʔiiḥčp ʔukʷił ʔiqḥmuut (Honouring Our Ancient Ones) Residential School Research Project began work nearly three years ago to find potential burial sites on the grounds of the Ahousaht Indian Residential School on Flores Island, and the Christie Indian Residential School on Meares Island.

Information was gathered through ground surveys, archival search, and oral history, according to the team during a public update in Ahousaht on Wednesday afternoon. CHEK News attended the event.

The project team says no figures are being released about the number of potential burial sites that may have been found. They say it was a difficult decision, but it’s important to remember that each figure represents a child.

Fieldwork and scanning showed likely and potential burial sites on both former residential school sites, and that clusters of “unknown” features in those areas merit further research.

“Though the project team extensively reviewed thousands of archival documents, it is hard work that is exacerbated by the difficulty in accessing complete and relevant records, as well as the condition of the documents and vague language, such as referring to students by a number rather than their name,” they said.

They say the project’s process includes four main mandates: identifying as many children as possible by name, where they went when they were taken from their families, who is missing from the research, and using this information as a catalyst for healing. 

“Our work is focused on finding evidence to support the truth of the former students that attended these schools,” said Anne Atleo, project manager.

“These are shared experiences of those that tried to break us. There were many broken hearts and broken spirits. But our ancestors persevered. They survived residential school, and it’s important we acknowledge their truths and identify missing children,” Atleo added in a news release.

The next phase of the project includes further research and scanning.

“But, in order to provide thorough and meaningful answers to our people and the public about what happened at these residential schools, we require ongoing support and funding from the institutions that put them in place,” added Atleo.

READ ALSO: Commission releases interim report into unmarked graves at residential schools

There are supports and services for those impacted by residential schools. If you need emotional support, you can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

“Despite the reign of the residential schools, we are still here,” added Angus Campbell, elected councillor of Ahousaht First Nation.

“Today, we share the stories and shared experiences of those who survived residential school so future generations will know about what happened here.”


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