The remains of 215 children, some as young as 3-years-old, were uncovered in a mass grave in British Columbia, Canada, late last week.
According to the BBC, the mass grave was found in the area where Kamloops Indian Residential School stood from 1890 to 1978. The chief of the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced the discovery last Thursday.
Starting in the late 1800s, the residential schools, run by the government and religious authorities, worked to forcibly assimilate indigenous youth.
The BBC reports that Kamloops Indian Residential School was "the largest in the residential system." The school opened in 1890 and was run by the Roman Catholic church until 1969, when the central government took over the school's administration. At its peak in the 1950s, some 500 students were enrolled in the school.
The school was finally closed in 1978.
Following the Thursday discovery, Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver issued a statement noting that he was aggrieved by the loss of these children.
"I am filled with deep sadness at the troubling news about the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School," Miller said, according to Vatican News.
"The pain that such news causes reminds us of our ongoing need to bring light to every tragic situation that occurred in residential schools run by the Church," he continued.
"The passage of time does not erase the suffering that touches the Indigenous communities affected, and we pledge to do whatever we can to heal that suffering," he added.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also lamented the loss of the young children calling the discovery a "painful reminder" of a "shameful chapter of our country's history".
In a series of Tweets posted on Tuesday, Trudeau wrote, "Today marks the start of National Indigenous History Month, and it comes at a time when people across the country are dealing with the distressing news of the remains of 215 children being found near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School."
He continued, "This is a painful reminder of what took place at residential schools and the impacts still felt today. We cannot hide from this. Residential schools were a reality - a tragedy that existed in our country - and we have to own up to it."
This is a painful reminder of what took place at residential schools and the impacts still felt today. We cannot hide from this. Residential schools were a reality - a tragedy that existed in our country - and we have to own up to it.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 1, 2021
"We all have a role to play in dismantling systemic inequalities and discrimination - it starts with acknowledging the truth about these past wrongs. It also starts with learning about and honouring the heritage, cultures, and traditions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples."
So, we recommit to deepening our understanding of Indigenous peoples’ distinct histories, governments, laws, customs, spiritualties, and languages - and we recommit to continuing to walk the path of reconciliation together. Read my statement for #NIHM: https://t.co/4kxcwUqrop— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 1, 2021
Trudeau also ordered all Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast in honor of the 215 deceased children.
To honour the 215 children whose lives were taken at the former Kamloops residential school and all Indigenous children who never made it home, the survivors, and their families, I have asked that the Peace Tower flag and flags on all federal buildings be flown at half-mast.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 30, 2021
Museum specialists and the coroner's office are working with First Nation to determine causes and times of death for each of the deceased children.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Steven Kriemadis
Kayla Koslosky has been the Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com since 2018. She has B.A. degrees in English and History and previously wrote for and was the managing editor of the Yellow Jacket newspaper. She has also contributed to IBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com.