MUSKOWEKWAN FIRST NATION, Saskatchewan — At age 6, Ken Thomas said he was taken in a van. It was a two-hour drive from home and landed on the steps of the Muscowegwan Indian Residential School. The nun immediately shaved his braids. and soon he knew that whenever he spoke in his native language They will wash his mouth with soap.
During the 10 years of being there He had experienced many horrors. He recalls a friend committing suicide after being stripped and locked in a dorm after trying to escape. Mr. Thomas and the other boys Their friend was found hanged in the shower.
And like many other students, he said he saw human bones unearthed by unsuspecting contractors connecting the water on the school grounds. Some of the students disappeared and he heard rumors that they had died and were buried there.
From the 1880s to the 1990s, the Canadian government forced at least 150,000 indigenous children like Mr. Thomas out of their homes and sent them to residential schools designed to separate them from culture and assimilate them. The Western Way – a system that the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008 called “cultural genocide” at schools largely run by the Catholic Church. sexual harassment physical and emotional and violence is normal. Thousands of children have disappeared.
Canadians are now learning more about this terrifying history over the past four weeks. Two indigenous communities said they had discovered hundreds of unmarked graves of children who either died in schools of disease or were abandoned. or even killed And the revelation has ignited a new solution among indigenous peoples to hold the country accountable for its brutal past. and increasing pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to make the 94 recommendations of the Commission.
It might also change the way Canadians think about their history.
Jim Miller, professor emeritus of history at the University of Saskatchewan. said that since 1983, when he began to study the residential school system Public awareness of the history outside the indigenous communities has increased sporadically. and back down again
He said that since the unmarked grave was recently discovered, Interest has also increased noticeably. and he had never seen a time at this grave. “Very violent or widespread like this?”
“From my experience This is unprecedented in its realm,” he said, “and I find it very hard to believe that we can go back and ignore the sickness and legacy of the residential school after this.”
The Solidarity Committee estimated that about 4,100 children were missing from schools across the country. But a former Indigenous judge who led the commission, Murray Sinclair, said in an email this month that he now believes the number “in excess of 10,000”.
“People say: ‘Oh, stop, it’s done,’ said Cynthia Dechales, member of the Council of the First Nations Muscovewan. It is trying to find the remains of a child who was forced to go to the school and never returned home, it said. “We have to work on this.”
in the past few years Indigenous communities have pushed to use improved ground-penetrating radar technology to locate missing children’s graves.
On Friday, Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan said the remains of as many as 751 people, most likely children, were found at the Marieval Indian Residential School, about 87 miles from the capital Regina. In May, Tk’emlaps te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia said it had discovered the remains of 215 people, mostly children, at Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Muscoweg Day, where Mr Thomas was forced to go to school. It is home to one of the oldest remains in search of remains.
The red brick and stone school building opened in 1931 and operated until 1997, first under the Catholic Church. Then under the central government and finally under the first country. The facade of the building was perforated with broken windows and veneer, which proved useless in preventing birds and visitors.
In 2018, students from four universities drove to school to search for unmarked graves. They swept a small area. in that area for four days. which once planted potatoes with ground-penetrating radar which is a technology that has become increasingly sensitive in recent years.
Their search revealed what many in the community expected and feared — the remains of 35 people, mostly children, in unmarked graves.
Muscowegwan generally attracts students from as many as half a dozen indigenous communities in the wide north of Regina. provincial capital But Ms Dejale of Muscowegwan indigenous people attended school even though her family lived nearby, she said she had nightmares of never seeing her mother again.
When Mr. Thomas who was Anishina Abe, Arriving in 1973, he was too young to understand what was going on.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Thomas, now 53. “I came to school with a braid. and about an hour later Those braids were gone. my head is shaved That was the beginning of how I was introduced to the residential school.”
in the past days As he walked through the school The grounds of the school were filled with bird droppings, peeling paint and feathers. Mr. Thomas recalled his harrowing memories.
In the darkness of his dorm room He pointed out a series of showers in which a suicidal friend was punished for trying to escape.
Kamloops Indian Home School, about 900 miles west of Muskowegwan, has been replaced by a new indigenous community school nearby. At the old school The search for further remains of the missing child continues.
Guards keep the curious away from the overgrown garden that seems to be the place of search. A beautifully decorated football field is located in front of the old school building.
Poet Garry Gottfriedson attended a residential school. but returned years later to become a teacher and eventually the headmaster of a new school.
Mr Gotfriedson attended Kamloops for approximately seven years, from 1959 to 1963, until he and 13 siblings survived the system, their mother and other women. in indigenous communities Successfully sending their children to local government schools instead.
Now retired from school, Gottfriedson teaches writing at Thompson Rivers University. He said the discovery of an unmarked grave brought back bitter memories for him. The only way to survive is to return to the original land with family members.
The remains of what is believed to be an indigenous child were discovered at a defunct boarding school site in Canada. Here’s what you should know:
- Background: Around 1883, indigenous children in many parts of Canada were forced to attend residential schools in a forced assimilation program. Most of these schools are run by the church. and all schools prohibit the use of indigenous languages and indigenous cultural practices. which is often violent Illnesses as well as sexual harassment Physically and emotionally, about 150,000 children walked through the school between opening and closing in 1996.
- missing child: National Truth and Reconciliation Commission It was set up as part of the government’s apology and school settlement. It concluded that at least 4,100 students died while attending the school. Many come from abuse or neglect, others from disease or accidents. In many cases, families never know the fate of their children. which is now known as the “missing child”
- Discovery: In May, members of the Tk’emlps te Secwepemc First Nation found 215 bodies at the Kamloops school, run by the Roman Catholic Church until 1969, after ground-penetrating radar. in june The indigenous group said The bodies of up to 751 people were found, most of them children. It was found in an unmarked grave on the grounds of a boarding school in Saskatchewan.
- Cultural genocide’: In a 2015 report, the Commission concluded that the system was a model of “Cultural genocide” Murray Sinclair, a former judge and senator who heads the committee. said recently He now believes he now believes the number of missing children is “over 10,000”.
- Apologies and next steps: The committee called for an apology from the Pope for the role of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis stops one story. But the Archbishop of Vancouver apologized on behalf of his archdiocese. Canada has formally apologized and offered financial assistance and other searches. But indigenous leaders believe the government still has a long way to go.
last sunday He drove to the mountains on the dirt road Grandma used to ride on horses and carriages to her summer cottage. He has two granddaughters and her cousin and three children.
They are searching for medicinal roots. But after several false starts and calls to another family member, The party also found that they were about two weeks late for the harvest. So they shifted their focus to tailgating, with dishes ranging from shortbread cookies and almonds to bitter local beverages.
“Today we were unsuccessful in finding the roots we wanted,” he said, “but look, we are together and we are on land.”
Like many former residential school students, Mr. Gottfriedson decided years ago that He won’t talk about his own experiences for himself. He said his children only learned about them when he began publishing his poems.
“What I saw and experienced there, if the words came out of my mouth I thought that would be the end of me,” he said as he sat under the shade of a large tree on a barren mountainside. “But I can write about it. And I can write about it constructively in a safe place.”
while he speaks Some horrifying memories emerge: seeing a friend and classmate being sexually abused by a monk when he was too young to understand what happened. A warning from other children not to be alone with a priest or priest. And the woman committed suicide after being beaten repeatedly because she couldn’t speak English.
New decisions by indigenous leaders such as Ms. Desjarlais and the use of increased scanning technology are expected to lead to the discovery of even more unmarked graves.
on Tuesday a number of former students which in indigenous communities are often known as survivors. Gather in front of two teepees near Muscowegwan School. Wearing a traditional skirt and shirt decorated with colorful ribbons. They gathered to hear the Federal Minister for Indigenous Relations announced by Zoom that the government would give less than five million Canadian dollars to pay for the search for areas surrounding formerly residential schools across Saskatchewan. day
Although many natives felt that they were examined by the discovery of the remains. But the news is traumatic and raises many questions about what should happen next.
To identify the remains – and determine how and when people died – communities must excavate them. A decision Muskowekwan rejected in 2018, the first country responsible for Kamloops said no decision would be made on this or any other next steps until the search for the remains is complete.
Another question is what to do with the building itself.
When the residential school system is demolished The last institution was closed in 1996, and the local indigenous community set up a school instead.
The indigenous peoples of Muscoveguan have kept the old buildings as symbols of injustice. but other first nations In Saskatchewan it demolished its school to destroy the past.
Mr. Dejal’s goal is to mark the burial site after the next round of scanning is complete. She is also looking for money to turn the school ruins into museums and archives. as well as an adult education center
She is not a common vision internationally. Some former students said they avoided driving past the school just because they had a lot of bad memories for them.
Mr. Thomas was one of the people who wanted it to meet the Ball of Destruction. His wish is “There are some monuments in place of them not seeing this huge building with so much misery and abuse.”
Vjosa Isai contributed reporting.