St. Joseph’s Mission operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981. Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children. (Rebecca Dyok)

St. Joseph’s Mission operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981. Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children. (Rebecca Dyok)

Residential school survivor calling for Canada-wide search of sites after remains of 215 children found

‘I’m glad that they were found. It’s an eye-opener for many people all over the world,’ says Pearl Petal a survivor of St. Joseph’s Mission

Editor’s note: This article contains details about experiences at residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers.

Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length Friday morning after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children — some as young as three years old — at the site of the former Kamloops residential school.

“I’ve never seen (Chief) Willie (Sellars) like this. He has a thousand pounds on his shoulders,” said Williams Lake First Nations CAO Aaron Mannella Friday morning (May 28). “He feels the burden of all First Nations people and he’s reeling, like many First Nations people are today.”

Just 25 kilometres from downtown Williams Lake is the site of the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school, which operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981.

Thousands of Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in and Southern Dakelh/Carrier attended the mission and still live in the Cariboo Chilcotin area today.

‘A lifetime of remembering’

Pearl Petal attended the Mission with her siblings for 10 years. She witnessed the harsh realities of the residential school and still feels the effects of the experience to this day.

“This is a lifetime of remembering. It is not easy,” Petal told the Tribune.

Petal said she was not surprised by the discovery of the burial site and has heard the horror stories herself of babies being disposed of in the furnace of the St. Joseph’s Mission school. Many stories are too difficult to repeat, she said.

She said she feels angered by the discovery in Kamloops.

“I feel for the families and I am sorry for them,” she said.

“But I’m glad that they were found. It’s an eye-opener for many people all over the world.”

Petal said she hopes the confirmation will prove to non-Indigenous people the true history behind the residential schools.

READ ALSO: Indian residential schools: Canada’s sad legacy

Calls to search all residential schools for burial sites

She also wants St. Joseph’s Mission and all other residential school sites searched for similar burial sites, which she believes would be found.

Mannella said he’s heard similar stories from elders about deaths at St Joseph’s Mission and does expect there will be a call to action to analyse other residential sites across Canada, including St Joseph’s Mission.

“This is genocide. This is a stark reality … I sure hope that folks take a look and really reflect on what has occurred.”

He added trauma support is being offered to all members affected by the news.

Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for B.C., released a statement Friday, noting they are early in the process of gathering information and will continue to work collaboratively with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and others as the work progresses.

“We recognize the tragic, heartbreaking devastation that the Canadian residential school system has inflicted upon so many, and our thoughts are with all of those who are in mourning today.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a moment of silence during question period Friday morning out of respect for the child victims.

The B.C. society of Indian Residential School Survivors is offering toll-free telephone support for survivors at 1-800-721-0066.

RELATED: Remains of 215 Indigenous children found buried at former Kamloops residential school


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

A concept rendering of the proposed seven-unit, two-storey development at 1129 Riverside Ave. in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous graphic)
Proposed luxury development in Sicamous sparks parking concerns

Seven-unit commercial-residential building planned for Riverside Avenue

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Shuswap Litas and Son of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
More than 75% of B.C. adults have 1st dose of COVID vaccine

The federal government has confirmed a boost in the Moderna vaccine will be coming later this month

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

The rainbow flag flies beside the Canadian flag outside the University of the Fraser Valley’s Chilliwack campus on June 26, 2020. Monday, June 14, 2021 is Flag Day, and also June is Pride Month. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Most Read