Native American horse riders line up at Little Big Horn in Montana. Photo credit: Daniel Lloyd Blunk Fernandez

Unearthing of unmarked Native graves point to the Catholic Church’s role in indigenous genocide

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Second unearthing of unmarked Native graves linked to stories of a traumatic, abusive French colonial past at the Indian boarding schools in Canada.

Chief Cadmus Delorme of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan territory announced in a press conference the discovery of 751 unmarked graves on what was formerly the Marieval Indian Residential School in Canada.

“As of yesterday, we’ve hit 751 unmarked graves,” said Chief Delorme. “Over the past years, the oral stories of our elders, of our survivors and friends of our survivors have told the story that knew these burials were here.”

The discovery was made after the Cowessess nation used a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to scan the field that is a part of the community gravesite erected in the 1970s. The GPR is commonly used during searches for clandestine graves.

In the virtual press conference, Chief Delorme explained that in “1960 there may have been marks on the grave, but the Catholic Church representatives removed [the] headstones,” explained Chief Delorme. The unmarked graves are believed to hold children and adults.

This discovery comes days after the unearthing of remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on the land of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation.

“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify. To our knowledge, these missing children are undocumented deaths,” stated Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir in a release by the Office of the Chief of Kamloops.

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“Some were as young as three years old. We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”

The Roman Catholic Church, under the French colonial settlers, established a network of assimilation schools in the early 17th century. Colonial authority mandated that Native children under the age of 15 attend. At the heart of the schools were to strip Native children of the culture and identity with aggressive methods that also included physical abuse and torture.

Many children were abused both psychologically and sexually, including thousands who died from tuberculosis and other diseases.

Another problem was that the institutions were severely underfunded, which resulted in housing and facilities to be dilapidated, as well as, giving the children foods that were foreign to the diets that severely malnourished them. But, the survival of Natives was not the real agenda.

Duncan Campbell Scott, who ran the residential school system at its peak, between 1913 and 1932, was recorded of often saying, “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

In the National Archives of Canada,Scott also is documented in writing, “Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”

The Cowessess partnered with their local Indian services to offer a help line for those who have been triggered by the disturbing discoveries.

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