Over 750 unmarked graves found at former Canadian school for Indigenous children

Over 750 unmarked graves found at former Canadian school for Indigenous children
© Greg Nash

An Indigenous group has found more than 750 unmarked graves at a former school for Indigenous children in Canada.

Cadmus Delorme, chief of the Cowessess First Nation, said in a news conference on Thursday that 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of the Marieval Indian Residential School as of Wednesday.

He said the next step is “putting names to these unmarked graves.”

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“We want to honor our loved ones that lay there today. We want to make sure that we keep that place and preserve it so many can come here and heal,” Delorme said.

The Marieval Indian Residential School opened its doors in 1898, about a decade after the Roman Catholic Church arrived in the Cowessess First Nation in 1886. The school closed its doors in 1996.

The Cowessess First Nation took over the grave site in 1970, after the Church stopped overseeing the school.

Delmore said the Cowessess First Nation began an effort to look for unmarked graves at the site earlier this month.

However, he cautioned that he could not confirm all the grave sites that have been found are those of children.

“There are oral stories that there are adults in this grave site as well because it was the Roman Catholic Church that overseen this grave site. Some may have went to the church from our local towns and they could have been buried here,” Delorme said. 

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Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBiden administration stokes frustration over Canada The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Schumer moves ahead with likely-to-fail infrastructure vote US extends travel restrictions with Canada, Mexico MORE said in a statement that he is “terribly saddened” to learn of the findings.

“Together, we must acknowledge this truth, learn from our past, and walk the shared path of reconciliation, so we can build a better future,” Trudeau said.

Thousands of children, most of which are Indigenous, were often separated from their families and forced to attend schools in Marieval.

The Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc community announced late last month that it found the remains of 215 children near the Kamloops Indian Residential School.