54 new unmarked graves found at a Canadian residential school
Testimonies of abuse and torture affirm the dark days of Native Canadian mistreatment and discrimination.
Using a radar that detects objects in the ground, more unmarked graves were found at two former residential schools in Saskatchewan province, Canada.
This discovery adds to the shocking series of unmarked grave discoveries of children who were abused and mistreated at the Catholic schools, which had a sole aim to not only prohibit the children from practicing their culture but also to convert them to Christianity.
The information was revealed at a press conference by Ted Quewezance, who is at the forefront of the Keeseekoose First Nation's lookout for graves at Fort Pelly and St Phillips, both residential schools.
There were 42 gravesites found at Fort Pelly, while an additional 12 were found at St Philip's.
The children were forcibly snatched from their parents to be sent to these schools where they were treated unethically: "Canadians still cannot believe a human being could treat another human being, especially a child, like the way we were treated,” said Quewezance, who was once a 'student' in these schools, holding his tears back.
He said that these findings consolidate and affirm what the native community has been saying for years, but were not listened to or believed.
"It was not that they could not hear, but they did not believe our survivors," he said.
The schools were run and funded by the Catholic church.
While Fort Pelly operated from 1905 through 1913, St Philips operated from 1928 through 1969.
St Philips, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, had numerous cases of sexual and physical abuse.
Elaine Durocher, a witness and testament to the brutality, said that as soon as she made it to the school, "the abuse started right away."
"We were stripped, taken up to a dormitory, stripped. Our hair was sprayed … We were always praying. We were always on our knees. We were told we were little, stupid savages, and that they had to educate us," continuing, "they were there to discipline you, teach you, beat you, rape you, molest you, but I never got an education."
Fred Brass, another St Philips survivor, said that the school was dominated by a violent regime of punishment and that he lived in fear of being abused, day and night.
"I saw my brother with his face held to a hot steaming pipe and then getting burned on the arm by a supervisor," he narrated.
The project leader of the search, Chief Lee Kitchemonia, said that the graves could potentially be murdered children, buried and hidden, and that more investigation is needed into the matter.
From 1874 to 1996, over 150,000 children were taken from their families to residential schools in Canada - there are about 130 of them.
Last month, Indigenous leaders in British Columbia, Canada, announced that they believe that they'd found 93 unmarked graves beside a former boarding school.
Williams Lake First Nation Chief, Willie Sellars, explained at a news conference on Tuesday that the "potential human burials" were discovered with geophysical techniques, including ground-penetrating radars. The burials are located at the site of a former boarding school - St. Joseph's Mission school, which was in effect between 1886 and 1981. The school was mostly run by Roman Catholic missionaries.
These discoveries have led to monetary compensations and apologies, including by Pope Francis.
Last month, the Canadian government announced the allocation of Cnd$31.5 billion agreement to reform its discriminatory child welfare system and compensate Indigenous families who had their families broken up.
The agreement, which came about as a result of litigation filed by First Nations families against the Canadian government, admits that "discriminatory underfunding" of child and family services in indigenous areas has caused hardship for people concerned.