In the southern B.C. Nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and beyond, the stories have always been known. Stories of children lost, missing, or disappeared. Of children who went to the Kamloops Indian Residential School and never came home.
The remains were discovered using ground-penetrating radar technology, and the preliminary findings were released quickly to the nation, surrounding communities and broader public late in the week. More information about the technology and work is expected to be released at the time of the full report in June.
The gruesome discovery took decades and for some survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada, the confirmation that children as young as 3 were buried on school grounds crystallizes the sorrow they have carried all their lives.
“I lost my heart, it was so much hurt and pain to finally hear, for the outside world, to finally hear what we assumed was happening there,” said Harvey McLeod, who attended the school for two years in the late 1960s, in a telephone interview with CNN Friday.
Reacting to news of the Kamloops discovery, she said: “Like so many of us survivors, we were in shock. When you hear this, it’s very devastating, very devastating. I cried, you know because that could have been one of us.”
Jaab joined the memorial in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery Friday night, where 215 pairs of children’s shoes were placed on the steps. She spoke passionately about what she believes should happen next.
“There was a big orchard there and we used to make up stories of the graveyard being in the orchard,” Baker told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “There was rumours of a graveyard, but nobody seemed to know where it was and we didn’t even know if it was true.”
When asked about what it was like to attend school there, Baker responded: “It was like being in jail. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere and if our family wanted to visit they could do that once a week.”
Baker says an apology from various levels of government “doesn’t mean anything,” adding she wants people to know what students experienced.