‘It shouldn’t have happened’: Emotions still run high after discovery of British Columbia residential school burial site
A member of an Interior First Nation in British Columbia says he is in an emotional boom after learning earlier this week that dozens of bodies have been found at a former Kamloops residential school.
In an interview with Global News on Saturday, Alphonse Adams said he was surprised by the announcement made Thursday by the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation that ground-penetrating radar discovered the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
His emotional face, Adams, 61, a member of Lytton First Nation, said: “This shouldn’t have happened. It’s crazy… the people who did that… sometimes I cry… I try to hide my anger.
Kamloops First Nation, B.C. confirms the bodies of 215 children buried at the site of a former residential school
Adams said he attended boarding school in Lytton, which operated from 1901 to 1979, and had ties to the students in Kamloops.
“All of our schools were competing, basketball, hockey, volleyball, soccer,” he said.
Like Adams in British Columbia, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said he was stunned by the news.
“Although I have been aware of the residential school problem for over four decades and have followed the investigation (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) and so on very closely, I was absolutely shocked and deeply disturbed. He told Global News.
“(I was) very angry and heartbroken to learn of this confirmation of the genocidal nature of the residential school system in terms of its design and purpose.
Gruesome discovery: the remains of 215 children found in former British Columbia residential school
He went on to say, “I don’t think anyone can imagine how deeply disturbing this will be for the survivors, the families. The unknown question that hangs in the air is: Are there any relatives of mine in the 215 children’s bodies that were discovered at Kamloops Residential School?
“This will re-traumatize and revive the entire residential school survivor community, and it will reverberate in our communities.
Phillip says “we are in desperate need of closure,” adding that there must be an unprecedented and thorough investigation in line with the investigation of Robert Pickton’s missing women in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.
“It can’t be swept under the rug,” Phillip said. “We no longer need political theater in terms of the Prime Minister’s apologies. We need them to engage with all the resources available and necessary to do a good job.
“So it will take a huge investment to be able to end this problem in a way that is appropriate for all victims, their families and their communities. And this work must be guided by the indigenous community.
British Columbia Premier and Premier’s response to the heartbreaking discovery of Kamloops Residential School
Asked what kind of help Indigenous communities need, Phillip said it would be helpful to have incident response teams.
“Indigenous peoples have been traumatized time and time again throughout our history,” he said. “We need the resources to set up our own critical response teams.
“You need permanent budgets to support groups of these highly qualified people.”
He added: “We need structural change, not just public platitudes and tearful apologies. We need the resources to properly deal with these issues. “
Phillip said there was huge support for the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, “and we deserve the same type of consideration.”
Reaction to the discovery of Kamloops
He also asked if he thought any more bodies would be found in former residential schools across the country, Phillip said yes.
“If this happened at Kamloops Indian Residential School, there is no reason not to believe it happened across the country,” he said. “I think we haven’t heard the worst of it all.”
Phillip called the discovery a “national crisis, and it must be treated that way.” We are not going to allow the federal government and other levels of government to simply brush them aside.
“It’s not going to happen. We need answers, families need answers. They need closure. Residential school survivors need peace of mind. And that’s why the truth is so important.
Memorial held at the Vancouver Art Gallery for children who died in residential schools
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.