Only two buildings that were part of the Alberni Indian Residential School remain. One is now used for Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council offices and across the parking lot a gymnasium is still used for sports and large community gatherings,
The school operated from the late 1890s to 1973 and like many other residential schools, was a place of horror for many students.
“The stories of abuse here have been told in great detail by some people and now I think what’s coming more to light is the children who never made it home for various reasons,” said Tseshaht Chief Councillor Ken Watts.
There are stories of unmarked gravesites in the area around the school site and the Tseshaht First Nation is applying to the federal government for funding to do a detailed scan of huge pieces of property in order to find answers and closure.
Tseshaht wants to demolish at least one of the remaining buildings, then develop the entire site into a multi-functional property for healing.
“It can be an interdisciplinary approach where it’s physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental supports,” said Watts. “If we can get all those affected and support them in a good way in their healing then I think we did our job.”
There are no concrete plans yet. The first task will be to secure the funding to move forward.
“Canada and others need to step up to the plate and some would argue the churches have to financially as well,” said Watts.
“You know like the United Church. It would be great if Canadians said you know what, you need to support Tseshaht in the work they’re doing in their community because you were a part of it.”
If you’re suffering trauma from abuse at residential schools you can call a hotline for help at 1-866-925-4419 or visit the Indian Residential School Survivors Society here.