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More than 160 unmarked graves found near former residential school on Penelakut

Penelakut Tribe is offering healing sessions for anyone affected by the discovery
Photo of Kuper Island Residential School taken in the 1920s. (B.C. Archives photo)

This article contains details about experiences at residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers.

A statement from Penelakut Tribe has confirmed that more than 160 undocumented and unmarked graves have been discovered on the grounds and foreshore of the former Kuper Island Indian Residential School.

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“We understand that many of our brothers and sisters from our neighbouring communities attended the Kuper Island Residential School. We also recognize with a tremendous amount of grief and loss, that too many did not return home,” Penelakut Chief Joan Brown said in the statement.

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The Kuper Island Residential School opened in 1890 and closed in 1975. Indigenous children from Cowichan and other adjacent Coast Salish nations were forced to attend the school.

Penelakut will hold a March for the Children on August 2, 2021. The march will start at the Salish Sea Market in Chemainus and end in Waterwheel Park. Anyone participating in the march is asked to first sign a waiver at the Salish Sea Market at 8:00 a.m.

Penelakut Tribe will also be offering healing sessions for survivors and members impacted by the Kuper Island Residential School. One will be on July 28, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Another session will be offered on August 4.

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

Residential school survivors who need support can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.