The shishalh Nation on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast says ground-penetrating radar has identified what are believed to be 40 unmarked graves of children on or near the site of the former St. Augustine’s Residential School.
A statement from the First Nation on Thursday said it listened to elders and survivors of the residential school, and stories shared of missing children have been confirmed.
It said ground-penetrating radar is one of the tools it used in the archeological project, which also included interviews with survivors and records of documented historical events.
The nation said it has been working with the University of Saskatchewan to find the remains of children who didn’t return from St. Augustine’s.
Terry Clark, an associate professor at the university, said they always had enough proof of the remains, and they strongly believe there are many more unmarked graves in the area.
Chief Lenora Joe said they have known the truth and conducted the search to show the children that they haven’t been forgotten.
“The children have spoken, and we are listening. We have heard their voices,” the statement said.
The nation said the land where St. Augustine’s operated is in the middle of the municipality of Sechelt, so it has been disturbed and developed.
Depending solely on ground-penetrating radar for data would be inaccurate and inconclusive, it said.
“We know there are more lost children, the researchers are telling us there are more. This is heartbreaking,” said Joe.
“Some of the children may never be found. We will keep looking.”
The school operated between 1904 and 1975.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has said parents withdrew their children in 1923 to protest poor education, harsh discipline and inadequate diet.
It said officials responded by appointing a new principal and increasing school funding.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2023.