More than 160 unmarked graves confirmed near residential school on Penelakut Island

More than 160 unmarked graves confirmed near residential school on Penelakut Island

WARNING: This story contains graphic content related to violence and abuse, and may be disturbing to some readers.

More than 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been confirmed near the site of the Kuper Island Industrial Residential School off Vancouver Island, CHEK News has learned.

The unmarked graves were reported by an internal memo circulated by Penelakut Tribe that has been circulated online.

“We understand that many of our brothers and sisters from our neighbouring communities attended the Kuper Island Residential School. We also recognize with a tremendous amount of grief and loss, that too many did not return home,” reads a statement from Penelakut Tribe Chief Joan Brown.

“It is impossible to get over acts of genocide and human rights violations. Healing is an ongoing process, and sometimes it goes well, and sometimes we lose more people because the burden is too great.”

Located on Penelakut Island across the water from Chemainus, Kuper Island Industrial Residential School opened in 1889 and was known as “Canada’s Alcatraz” due to its location on an island, but largely because it was rife with unimaginable abuse.

Indigenous children were trapped on the island and forced to endure horrific physical and sexual abuse at the hands of school staff.

A total of 121 children are known to have died at the school, with some having drowned while attempting to escape the island.

Tony Charlie, who first arrived at Kuper Island when he was 15 and suffered repeated sexual abuse, told CHEK News last month that the school grounds were being scanned by a team of researchers.

The discovery of more than 160 unmarked graves on Penelakut Island comes amid a wave of similar discoveries at other residential school sites.

More than 1,000 other unmarked graves have been discovered at or near residential school sites across Canada — including 751 at the former Marieval Indian Residential School near Regina — since the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in May.

Murray Sinclair, the former chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said last month that the discovery of additional children’s remains at other residential school sites across the country is likely.

RELATED: A brief history of Vancouver Island’s five residential schools, and the children who died there

Editor’s note: Anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience can call the 24/7 National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866 925-4419.

With files from the Canadian Press

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Nicholas PescodNicholas Pescod

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