Warning: The details in this article may be triggering. Supports are available at the Indian Residential School Survivors Society (IRSSS) at 1-800-721-0066.
After the discovery of 93 unmarked graves at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) has extended its deepest condolences to their Indigenous neighbours.
The former residential school, near Williams Lake First Nation, was operational from 1891 to 1981.
Preliminary findings were revealed on Tuesday (Jan. 25) after a nine-month initial investigation, with evidence showing unmarked remains within a 14-hectare parcel of land.
“This is another painful reminder of the trauma caused by the residential school system,” said RDOS chair Mark Pendergraft. “The RDOS extends its support to our Indigenous neighbours as they mourn and honour those lost.”
The initial investigation also revealed a history of cover-up and abuse.
“The discovery of the remains highlights the damaging and lasting impacts of the residential school system and its intergenerational impacts on Indigenous families and communities,” the RDOS added in a statement made public on Jan. 26.
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars provided information tied to the investigation at a media conference on Tuesday while outlining the history that has come to light over the last several months.
“On behalf of the RDOS Board of Directors and staff, deepest condolences are extended to our Syilx Okanagan friends, family, and neighbours experiencing tragic loss,” the RDOS wrote in the aftermath of the conference.
Anyone affected by residential schools can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the Indian Residential School Survivors Society at 1-800-721-0066.