St. Joseph’s Mission operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981. Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children. (Rebecca Dyok)

St. Joseph’s Mission operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981. Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children. (Rebecca Dyok)

Residential school survivor calling for Canada-wide search of sites after remains of 215 children found

‘I’m glad that they were found. It’s an eye-opener for many people all over the world,’ says Pearl Petal a survivor of St. Joseph’s Mission

Editor’s note: This article contains details about experiences at residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers.

Chiefs from across B.C. have been meeting at length Friday morning after Indigenous communities were rocked by the news of the discovery of the remains of 215 children — some as young as three years old — at the site of the former Kamloops residential school.

“I’ve never seen (Chief) Willie (Sellars) like this. He has a thousand pounds on his shoulders,” said Williams Lake First Nations CAO Aaron Mannella Friday morning (May 28). “He feels the burden of all First Nations people and he’s reeling, like many First Nations people are today.”

Just 25 kilometres from downtown Williams Lake is the site of the St. Joseph’s Mission residential school, which operated from July 19, 1891 to June 30, 1981.

Thousands of Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in and Southern Dakelh/Carrier attended the mission and still live in the Cariboo Chilcotin area today.

‘A lifetime of remembering’

Pearl Petal attended the Mission with her siblings for 10 years. She witnessed the harsh realities of the residential school and still feels the effects of the experience to this day.

“This is a lifetime of remembering. It is not easy,” Petal told the Tribune.

Petal said she was not surprised by the discovery of the burial site and has heard the horror stories herself of babies being disposed of in the furnace of the St. Joseph’s Mission school. Many stories are too difficult to repeat, she said.

She said she feels angered by the discovery in Kamloops.

“I feel for the families and I am sorry for them,” she said.

“But I’m glad that they were found. It’s an eye-opener for many people all over the world.”

Petal said she hopes the confirmation will prove to non-Indigenous people the true history behind the residential schools.

READ ALSO: Indian residential schools: Canada’s sad legacy

Calls to search all residential schools for burial sites

She also wants St. Joseph’s Mission and all other residential school sites searched for similar burial sites, which she believes would be found.

Mannella said he’s heard similar stories from elders about deaths at St Joseph’s Mission and does expect there will be a call to action to analyse other residential sites across Canada, including St Joseph’s Mission.

“This is genocide. This is a stark reality … I sure hope that folks take a look and really reflect on what has occurred.”

He added trauma support is being offered to all members affected by the news.

Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner for B.C., released a statement Friday, noting they are early in the process of gathering information and will continue to work collaboratively with the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and others as the work progresses.

“We recognize the tragic, heartbreaking devastation that the Canadian residential school system has inflicted upon so many, and our thoughts are with all of those who are in mourning today.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a moment of silence during question period Friday morning out of respect for the child victims.

The B.C. society of Indian Residential School Survivors is offering toll-free telephone support for survivors at 1-800-721-0066.

RELATED: Remains of 215 Indigenous children found buried at former Kamloops residential school


Do you have a comment about this story? email:
editor@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Indigenousresidential schools

Just Posted

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

The Journey, an art exhibit by Pauline Hurley, was on display at the Summerland Ats Centre earlier this spring. Beginning June 15, the Summerland Community Arts Council will present Spark, a 10-week community arts challenge. (Summerland Review file photo)
Challenge to spark creativity among Summerland artists

Spark challenge will begin June 15 and will run 10 weeks

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Burned-out bathroom could cost Vernon $25K

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Cody Bandsma practises kiting with his new paraglider wing at Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Cody Bandsma reaching new heights over the Shuswap

Former 100 Mile resident discovers Salmon Arm by air with powered paraglider

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Investigation ongoing after child struck by vehicle downtown Vernon

A young child was taken to hospital Friday with undetermined injuries

Most Read