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Kootenay Residential School at St. Eugene MissionShutterstock

CRANBROOK, British Columbia, July 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – After initial reports alleged finding “unmarked graves,” a former British Columbia chief has revealed that the existence of these graves is common knowledge, as they are part of an actively-used graveyard.

This week, mainstream media reported that ground-penetrating radar discovered 182 unmarked graves at the site of the former Kootenay Residential School at St. Eugene Mission just outside Cranbrook, B.C.

Former chief of the St Mary’s Indian Band and former student of this school, Sophie Pierre, told Global News that this was not news to the community. “There’s no discovery, we knew it was there, it’s a graveyard,” Pierre said. “The fact there are graves inside a graveyard shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”

She explained that the graves had been marked with wooden crosses which had either been burned or deteriorated over time. Currently, the use of wooden markers is still common practice among many Indigenous communities across Canada.

Additionally, Pierre revealed that the graves may contain the bodies of children from the residential schools; however, this is not confirmed. “There could very well be, and in good likelihood, some children that were in the residential school that died here because of [tuberculosis] or other diseases, and were buried there,” Pierre said. “But it’s a graveyard.”

“To just assume that every unmarked grave inside a graveyard is already tied to a residential school, we’ve got to be a little bit more respectful of our people who are buried in our graveyards,” Pierre continued.

This graveyard is still being actively used. “We just buried one of our people there last month,” she said. “Anyone who died in my community would be buried there.”

Most mainstream media reports blame the Catholic Church, neglecting to mention the excessively high rates of tuberculosis among Indigenous children and the substantial lack of proper financial support from the Canadian government, which forced Indigenous children into those schools in the first place.  

Once the government mandated attendance at the schools in the 1920s, children were forcibly removed from their families and parents threatened with prison if they did not comply. Upon arrival at school, children rarely saw their families, with many disappearing or never seeing their families again.

Catholic author Michael O’Brien, who attended residential schools, gave testimony to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He previously told LifeSiteNews that the chief underlying issue in the residential school saga was the institutional abuse of children being removed from their families by the state authorities, and then taken to the schools, noting the “long-term psychological and social effects of this.”

An important element to the residential school narrative, often ignored by the mainstream media, is that, citing financial costs, the Department of Indian Affairs refused to ship home the bodies of children who died at the government-mandated schools, meaning that they had to be buried there.

Additionally, mortality rates for children under the age of five had been recorded as 296.75 deaths per 1,000 births in 1900. That figure only dropped beneath 100 deaths per 1,000 births in 1935, with high rates of child mortality consistently seen from 1910 through 1920.

Indeed, the First Nations people have historically been noted to be less resilient against infectious diseases, such as influenza epidemics, measles, and smallpox.

As media outlets publish allegations and grossly overexaggerated accounts, many Catholic churches are being burned to the ground while others are vandalized. These churches serve Indigenous Catholics, who are now left without parishes or access to necessary sacraments. Some officials are even encouraging these acts on social media.