The shameful secret of what happened to children from Canada's First Peoples communities keeps on being revealed.
The remains of nearly 182 have been found on the grounds of St Eugene’s Mission, a former residential school near the city of Cranbrook, British Columbia., adding to the growing tally of unmarked graves across the country.
Some of the remains were buried in unmarked shallow graves only three and four feet deep.
“It is believed that the remains of these 182 souls are from the member Bands of the Ktunaxa Nation, neighbouring First Nations communities and the community of Aq’am,” the Lower Kootenay band said in a statement. Records list the deaths of 19 students at the institution, highlighting the gap between official figures and what many believe is a vast undercounting of the deceased.
The discovery at St Eugene’s adds to the growing list of unmarked graves. Last week, the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced the discovery of 751 possible unmarked graves. Last month, the Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc announced they had found 215 unmarked graves, most of which are believed to be children.
Jack Kruger in 1956 was taken from his family and transported by train and cattle truck to St Eugene’s. He was six years old at the time. “I lost my language for 40 years because they told me it was the ‘devil’s tongue’. I was brainwashed so badly. I didn’t speak to no one in it – and I didn’t let anyone speak the language to me.” Kruger witnessed rampant sexual and physical abuse of his classmates and friends. His best friend took his own life at the age of six after he was raped by a priest, he said. “I thought I dealt with it and I healed from it. But then every night I have nightmares... The priests are chasing after me again. Even if you put them in jail, it’s not going to stop.” Kruger helped design a statue commemorating residential school survivors. “I made sure the words ‘Never again’ were on there,” he said. “Never again will any of my children have to go through something like this. Never again will anybody try to take our children away. Never again.”
St Eugene’swas run by the Catholic Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which operated 48 schools, including the Marieval Indian residential school at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Kamloops Indian residential school.