Canada indigenous group says 751 graves found at former residential school
'This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves,' says indigenous group chief
Hundreds of unmarked graves have been found at a former Indian residential school in western Canada, Cowessess First Nations Chief Cadmus Delorme said Thursday.
About 751 graves were discovered at the Marieval Indian Residential School in the province of Saskatchewan. The school operated from 1899 to 1997.
"This is not a mass grave site. These are unmarked graves," said Delorme at a virtual news conference.
It is the second such discovery in recent weeks, with 215 unmarked children's graves found at another residential school in British Columbia. First Nations children were taken from their families and forced to attend the schools beginning in the 1820s, where officials tried to obliterate their culture.
Delorme said it was not yet known if all the graves are those of only children.
There were 139 residential schools operating across Canada and the last one closed in 1996. About 150,000 First Nations children were put into the schools and at least 4,000 died under sometimes mysterious circumstances. Many were physically, mentally and sexually abused. The schools were operated by various religious groups including the Catholic, Anglican, United and Presbyterian organizations.
Last month, 215 unmarked graves of children were found at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Thursday, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron called what happened to the children a "crime against humanity" and said many more graves would be found.
"There will be hundreds more unmarked graves and burial sites located across our First Nations land at the sites of former Indian Residential Schools," Cameron said in a prepared statement.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had already said the residential schools represented a "genocide" against the First Nations.
Cameron said many First Nations families in Saskatchewan do not know what happened to their children.
"There are thousands of families across our Treaty territories that have been waiting for their children to come home. Saskatchewan had the highest number of residential schools and highest number of survivors," he said.