Tseshaht First Nation’s research says at least 67 children died at Alberni Indian Residential School

WARNING: This story contains details that may be distressing to some readers.

The c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation has been reviewing records to determine the number of children who have died at the Albani Indian Residential School for the past 18 months. They are also working with BC-based land surveying firm GeoScan to use ground-penetrating radar to identify possible anomalies on the old school grounds.

This work is part of a project called ʔuuʔatumin yaqckwiimitqin (Do it for our ancestors).

As part of Phase 1, an investigation revealed 67 child deaths at the Albany Indian Residential School, and ground penetrating radar revealed 17 geophysical features representing suspected graves in the study area. became clear.

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Alberni Indian Residential School operated from 1900 to 1973, but Nuu-chah-nult leaders helped close it, forcing at least 70 indigenous children in the state to attend school . “A school we never asked for, a school we never agreed to,” said Wamish (Ken Watts), the chief councilor elected to Tseshaat.

“We never agreed to have it placed on our territory, but we are doing our part to let the world know what happened at Albani Indian Residential School. There can be no reconciliation.”

Wahmeesh shared the story of ‘Susie’, a Gitxsan-Tsimshian child who did not speak English and was separated from her family by the RCMP and transferred to Alberni Indian Residential School. He shared his experience of verbal and emotional abuse from being unable to speak his language and being told he was a “good-for-nothing Indian.”

He shared stories of the horrors she had to witness, from physical abuse to sexual abuse.

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According to First Nation, the search found 66 potential new burial sites at former BC boarding schools.

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But Wahmeesh also talks about the camaraderie among students and how they banded together to protect and support each other.

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“All these ‘students’ were just children. Think about what would happen today if five-year-olds were taken from their homes.

“But there is hope and truth out there. It is because of all the survivors that we are able to stand up today and speak our language and dance. Thank you for surviving.”

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Scanning of Unmarked Graves Begins at Old Albani Boarding School

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission told Canadians in 2015 that many of the country’s 139 former Indian boarding schools had undocumented and unmarked graves. However, this fact received national attention until May 2021, when Tk’emlúpste Secwepemc announced that he believed there were 215 unmarked graves in the Old Kamloops Indian Residential School. never collected.

In response to these findings, the Government of Canada Starts funding communities Through the Community Support Fund for Missing Children in Boarding Schools.

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This funding is intended to support communities in conducting their own research and knowledge gathering, commemoration and memorialization, and field research. Tseshaht was offered $554,000 to complete some of this work.

Click to play video: 'I want to know how many children died': Kimberly Murray on recently detected anomalies at a boarding school site

‘I want to know how many children died’: Kimberly Murray on recently detected anomaly at boarding school site

Stories like this will continue to surface as communities try to find and identify buried children.

“This is not just another number. For the survivors, this is the truth they have shared from the beginning,” Wamish said. I know. This validates what they always knew.”

The Indian Boarding School Resolution Health Assistance Program has a hotline to assist boarding school survivors and their relatives who are suffering from trauma caused by memories of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line provides immediate, toll-free phone and online chat-based emotional support and crisis intervention to all Indigenous Peoples of Canada. This service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English and French and is available upon request in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.

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Trained counselors are available by phone at 1-855-242-3310 or online chat at

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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