The shíshálh Nation released the findings of a ground penetrating radar study done on the former grounds of the St. Augustine’s Residential Institute.
“The children have spoken, and we are listening. We have heard their voices,” says shíshálh Chief Lenora Joe.
Those voices were from the 40 unmarked shallow graves found on the grounds of the former residential school. The search was conducted with the help of St. Augustine’s survivors.
The school operated from 1904 to 1975. Joe says that children from 51 other First Nations attended the institution.
She says, “In some of these other nations you’ll notice that they also have their own residential schools. So why would they send them to a neighboring nation? The answer is simple, these were very brave young children.”
While the results of the study are just being released, the community has long suspected that these graves existed from historical accounts of what happened at the school.
“We have always known the truth, our Elders have told us and we always believed them,” says Joe. “We want to show the little ones to know we haven’t forgotten them, we love them and they are important.”
The nation has asked for privacy while they grieve and work through this as a community. Anyone who would like to show their respect can wear an orange shirt or fly flags at half-mast.