B.C. First Nation to search for burial sites at former residential school site in Alert Bay

B.C. First Nation to search for burial sites at former residential school site in Alert Bay
Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
St. Michael's in Alert Bay was established by the Anglican Church in 1878, and remained open until 1974.

Warning: This story contains details that may be distressing to some.

The ʼNa̱mǥis First Nation has announced it is taking first steps towards searching for unmarked burial sites at the site of a former residential school in Alert Bay, off the north tip of Vancouver Island.

The First Nation says it has begun an inquiry into the former grounds of St. Michael’s Indian Residential School on Cormorant Island, which will involve ʼNa̱mǥis chief and council, residential school survivors, a project steering committee and community members connected to the former school.

“Our priority is to support the mental health and wellness of the survivors, inter-generational survivors of St. Michael’s IRS, and all community members [affected] by the trauma of the history of Canadian IRS,” ʼNa̱mǥis First Nation said in a news release.

The inquiry will be conducted in phases involving research and review of archives and historical records, community engagement with survivors and the recovery of possible burial sites at the former residential school.

RELATED: B.C. First Nation finds 93 possible burial sites at former school

ʼNa̱mǥis First Nation said it plans to use ground-penetrating radar to search the site, and will keep impacted communities informed of what it discovers.

Upon completion of the search, the First Nation said it will create a commemorative monument for the former school grounds that will honour missing children who were unable to return home to their families.

St. Michael’s was established by the Anglican Church in 1878, while a boarding school followed in 1882. At least 15 children are known to have died while in the care of the school.

A physical education teacher who taught at the school in 1956, William Peniston Starr, was convicted on 13 counts of sexual and indecent assault of children at another residential school in Saskatchewan between 1968 and 1983.

The school was closed in 1974.

Support for residential school survivors or other Indigenous people impacted can be found by calling the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066 or www.irsss.ca.

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!