facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

CHEMAINUS, B.C. — Six miles from Chemainus, British Columbia sits Penelakut Island, formerly known as Kuper Island, which is part of the Southern Gulf Islands. From 1890 until 1975, the island was home to the Kuiper Island Industrial School.

Conditions were reportedly so bad at Kuper Island, some survivors of the residential school have described it as “Canada’s Alcatraz.” The horrors there have also been marked by the drowning of children trying to escape the island. 

Want more Native News? Get the free daily newsletter today.

On Monday, the Penelakut Tribe announced that it has “confirmation of 160 plus undocumented and unmarked graves,” on the grounds of the former school.

The Kuiper Island Industrial School was founded and operated by the Catholic Church from 1890 to 1969. In 1969, the government took over operation of the school until it closed in 1975.


"It is impossible to get over acts of genocide and human rights violations. Healing is an ongoing process, and sometimes it goes well, and sometimes we lose more people because the burden is too great," Chief Joan Brown said in a press release with tribal councillors and elders.

Monday’s announcement marks the fourth discovery of remains at former residential schools in Canada. All were operated by the Catholic Church.

In late May, the remains of 215 children were found at a former residential school site in Kamloops, British Columbia. On June 24, the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of as many as 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Then on June 30, the Lower Kootenay Band of the Ktunaxa Nation announced Wednesday that 182 unmarked graves were discovered using ground-penetrating radar near the former St. Eugene’s Mission School in Cranbrook, British Columbia.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation discovered that 121 students died at the Kuper Island Industrial School.

In reaction to the discovery of the graves, the Penelakut Tribe will be holding healing sessions for those interested at the Penelakut School gym on July 28 and Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. local time. Non-Indigenous allies are welcome to attend.

On Aug. 2, the tribe will also be holding a “March for the Children,” beginning at the Salish Sea Market in Chemainus. Marchers will then walk to Waterwheel Park.

“We know healing can’t happen in one day. There are many truths to be told and heard,” Chief Brown said.

More Stories Like This

Native News Weekly (June 16, 2024): D.C. Briefs
25th Navajo Nation Council Honors the Service of All Women Veterans
Photographs of the Homecoming of the Three Fires Powwow
Zuni Youth Enrichment Project Prepares to Kick Off Second Annual T-Ball League
Justice Dept. Scathing Report: Native Americans Face Discrimination by Phoenix Police

Join us in celebrating 100 years of Native citizenship. On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans US citizenship, a pivotal moment in their quest for equality. This year marks its centennial, inspiring our special project, "Heritage Unbound: Native American Citizenship at 100," celebrating their journey with stories of resilience, struggle, and triumph. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].