The chief of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, or Kamloops Indian Band, has condemned the vandalism of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kamloops shortly after the discovery of indigenous children’s graves at a nearby Church-run residential school.
“We are deeply disturbed to learn that the Saint Joseph’s church was vandalized. The church was built from the ground up by Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc members. We understand the many emotions connected to a Roman Catholic run residential school. At the same time, we respect the choices that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc ancestors made, over a 100 years ago, to erect this church,” read a May 31 statement from Rosanne Casimir, the band’s chief.
On the weekend of May 22, the remains of 215 indigenous children were found in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The discovery was made with ground-penetrating radar. It is unclear how the children died.
Graffiti reading ‘banished’, ‘evicted’, and ‘crime scene’ was found spray painted on the walls of St. Joseph’s May 31. An ‘X’ was on the front doors.
By the next day the graffiti had largely been cleaned off, Kamloops This Week reported.
The residential school in Kamloops operated from 1890 until 1978. The school was administered by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate from 1893 until 1969, when the Canadian government took control of the school again. At that point, the school building operated as a residence for First Nations children who were attending area day schools. The residence was closed in 1978.
The Kamloops school was at one point the largest school in the entire residential school system, which was established in Canada beginning in the 1870s and was overseen by the Catholic Church and Protestant ecclesial communities. The last operating residential school closed in 1996.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission which operated from 2008 until 2015 reported on a history of abuses in the system. Children from First Nations and other indigenous communities were separated from their families and placed in the residential schools as a means of forcible assimilation and enculturation. An estimated 4,100 to 6,000 First Nations and other indigenous children died as a result of neglect or abuse in the system, the commission found.
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