The toll of unmarked graves holding the remains of Indigenous children in Canada increased by 54 yesterday following the announcement from Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan.

The Nation found the graves using ground penetrating radar at the sites of two former Indian Residential Schools, with 12 found at Saint Philips and 42 at Fort Pelly, both less than ten miles from the Nation’s headquarters.

“Knowing that we had unmarked graves in our community, in our common areas where we drive every day, that we walk every day, we pass by them never realizing that there was graves there— that's got to be the most hurtful part,” said Chief Lee Kitchemonia in a broadcast press conference yesterday. “The way they were hidden.”

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

The discovery comes weeks after Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) announced their findings of at least 50 Indigenous children found on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School, a former Residential School in British Columbia. Since last May, over 1,400 Indigneous children's remains have been found across Canada, including 215 in Kamloops, 182 in Cranbrook, and more than 160 found on Penelakut Island–all in British Columbia–and 751 in Marieval, Saskatchewan. 

Assembly of First Nations national Chief RoseAnne Archibald spoke at the press conference via Zoom on Tuesday. She said that survivors have always known what was happening in residential schools, but were rarely believed until the first mass grave was discovered at Kamloops last year.

“And so when we make these recoveries, that's proof, that's long overdue proof that a genocide has occured in Canada,” she said. “What's really difficult about this is that the recovery of our children is just beginning. We are at the beginning of over 130 institutions across Canada.”

Following Tuesday’s announcement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter acknowledging the “profoundly heartbreaking” discovery.

“It is by telling the truth that we will honour and lift up the memory of those who never came home from these so-called schools,” he wrote.

Chief Kitchemonia said the tribe hasn’t completed surveying the school grounds due to winder weather.

“Are there more graves out there? We don't know that,” he said. “We got caught up in the snow. So the numbers that we have here today are the numbers we're presenting, but it also opens up the door for more questions.”

For support or resources in Canada, a National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those directly or indirectly impacted by the residential school era, and can be reached at 1-866-925-4419.

Tell Us What You Think

More Stories Like This

US Army to Return 5 Native Ancestors to Their Descendants This Fall
‘Road to Healing’ Will Visit Boarding School Survivors in Minnesota on June 3
Senator Warren Revives Indian Boarding School Legislation with Bipartisan Support
Sweeping Maine Tribal Sovereignty Effort Likely Won’t Happen Until 2024
A Quarter-Century Later, Cal State Fullerton Prepares to Repatriate Native Ancestors Again

Native News is free to read.

We hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.

Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps.  Most readers donate between $10 and $25 to help us cover the costs of salaries, travel and maintaining our digital platforms. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to join the Founder's Circle. All donations help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.

Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you. 

About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.