Statement on the Missing Children of the Kamloops Residential School

June 01, 2021

On May 27, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced that the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops (Tk’emlúps) Indian Residential School.  The discovery of this mass grave has sparked an outpouring of grief, horror, and loss in our region and throughout the world.

The SFU Department of Psychology offers our sympathy to Indigenous Peoples, the Secwépemc Peoples, Residential School Survivors, intergenerational Residential School Survivors, their families, and their communities. We honour and grieve the lives of these children who were taken, and the suffering imposed on their families and communities.  We encourage everyone to pause and honour the lives of these children, their relatives, and all those affected by residential schools.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation commissioned the work to locate the burial site. Members of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation knew that there were undocumented deaths at the school and had knowledge of children who never came home. Not only does this mark the lies and broken promises made to Indigenous peoples, but it also points specifically to the link between government-funded educational institutions, charged with protecting and promoting the welfare of all students, and genocide. 

Between 1857 and 1996, over 150,000 First Nation, Métis, and Inuit children were taken from their families and placed in residential schools as part of Canadian government efforts to forcibly assimilate them (Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015). Many children were taken at a young age and were punished for speaking their languages and practicing their cultures. Rates of abuse, disease, and illness were high, and thousands of children died while attending these schools (Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015). 

For students, faculty and staff who experience grief, trauma and/or loss, support is available:

Indigenous Student Centre 
Elders Program
KUU-US Crisis Line – provides an Indigenous specific crisis line for Indigenous residents of BC, available 24 hours a day/7 days a week 

Here are some links to learn more about Residential Schools:

Article: The discovery of a mass gravesite at a former residential school in Kamloops is just the tip of the iceberg - The Globe and Mail
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
TRC report volume 4 – Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials
Assembly of First Nations – It’s Our Time – Residential Schools Toolkit
Aboriginal Healing Foundation – Residential School Resources Directory 
An Overview of the Indian Residential School System booklet

If you would like to make a donation to support the ongoing process of Truth and Reconciliation, consider one of these organizations: 

Reconciliation Canada
Indian Residential School Survivors Society
National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

We respectfully acknowledge that SFU Burnaby is located on the unceded Traditional Coast Salish Lands including the Tsleil-Waututh (səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ), Kwikwetlem (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), Squamish (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw) and Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) Nations.