182 Unmarked Graves Have Been Discovered Near Another Former Residential School In BC

"Words always seem to fall short at moments like this," Justin Trudeau said.

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A First Nation in B.C.'s South Interior says it has found the remains of 182 people near the grounds of a former residential school.

The community of ʔaq̓am — a member community of the Ktunaxa Nation — used ground-penetrating technology to make the discoveries close to the former St. Eugene Mission School, located not far from Cranbrook.

In a statement shared on June 30, the ʔaq̓am Community confirmed that it began searching the area after finding an "unknown and unmarked" grave during remedial work around the ʔaq̓ am Cemetery last year.

"In order to ensure no other graves were disturbed, ʔaq̓ am Leadership, in consultation with Elders and Knowledge Keepers, made the decision to employ a ground penetrating radar system to identify additional unmarked graves," the notice reads.

It adds that this was "a deeply disturbing and painful experience for our Elders and community as a whole."

Early results from the investigation found 182 unmarked graves, with some being only three to four feet deep.

"ʔaq̓ am Leadership would like to stress that although these findings are tragic, they are still undergoing analysis and the history of this area is a complex one," the statement says.

It explains that the cemetery was established around 1865 for settlers to the region and was also used to bury local people who died at the St. Eugene Hospital after it was built in 1874.

The ʔaq̓am Community began burying members there in the late 1800s and the St. Eugene Residential School, which was attended by "hundreds" of children, operated nearby from 1912 to 1970.

"These factors, among others, make it extremely difficult to establish whether or not these unmarked graves contain the remains of children who attended the St. Eugene Residential School," the statement explains.

The ʔaq̓am Community said it is committed to working with external parties to begin identifying as many graves as possible and to "memorialize all unknown graves."

Responding to the discovery, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "Words always seem to fall short at moments like this. But to the Ktunaxa Nation and Indigenous peoples across the country, know that we're here for you."

*This article's cover image is for illustrative purposes only.

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