B.C. First Nation calling on province to search for remains of children on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- Chief Councillor Ken Watts of the Tseshaht First Nation on Vancouver Island is demanding answers and a search for the remains of Indigenous children.
"They have to help us do the research here to determine if we have unmarked graves," said Watts on Tuesday. "To determine if there are burials here in our community because of the Alberni Indian Residential School."
After the remains of 215 children were discovered buried on the property of the Kamloops Residential School site, the Tseshaht First Nation is calling on the federal government to fund ground penetrating radar use in Port Alberni.
"We've heard rumors of some instances where some students didn't make it home," said Watts.
The Alberni Residential School was in operation from 1900 to 1973. According to the University of Manitoba, 30 students are confirmed to have died at the school and the school has a very cruel history.
In 2013 it was revealed that children in the Alberni Residential School were starved in the name of science. They were not allowed vitamins, dental care or milk.
"Who knew about it and who authorized it?" asked then-Chief Hugh Braker in 2013. "Of depriving children of milk, what the effect would be on their health."
Ry Moran is the associate university librarian for reconciliation at the University of Victoria. He says with the recent news out of Kamloops, the reality of Canada’s dark history with residential schools is setting in. Now is the time for action so healing can take place, he says.
"The record and understanding that kids were not going home were well established and well understood," said Moran. "What hasn't happened is the supports being provided to communities to do the important work that needs to happen."
In the meantime, a GoFundMe campaign was launched on Tuesday by Steve Sxwithultxw. He’s an island residential school survivor.
The goal was to raise $25,000 to buy a ground penetrating unit and begin the work to search the grounds of all five island school sites. In just 24 hours, more than $25,000 had been raised in support of the project.