College Statement on Kamloops Indian Residential School

Published June 2, 2021

The College of Arts and Sciences is heartbroken by news of the discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Canada. We offer our deepest condolences to the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation and to all Indigenous nations, communities and families across North America now mourning this most recent confirmation of the atrocities committed against their children within the Indian boarding/residential school system which operated in Canada and the U.S. for well over a century.

The uncovering of this mass grave, which held the remains of children as young as three, serves as an agonizing reminder of the cruelty of Canadian and U.S. Indian policies enacted upon the youngest and most vulnerable citizens of Indigenous nations. From the early 19th to the late 20th centuries, more than 350 government funded and church led Indian boarding schools operated in the United States, while 139 such schools operated in Canada. These institutions promoted assimilation, Christian conversion and placed severe prohibitions on Indigenous culture. English-only policies were strictly and often violently enforced. As places of profound dehumanization with mortality rates reaching as high as sixty percent, these schools and their legacies have inflicted untold suffering on Indigenous families, communities and nations. Today, Indigenous peoples continue to endure the intergenerational impacts of the Indian boarding school system.

The recent findings at Kamloops have ignited a wave of grief across Indigenous North America. In this moment we are reminded yet again of the importance of working collectively towards a time when it will no longer take a peoples renewed anguish over state violence for their calls for justice and accountability to be heard. As the academic year draws to a close, we invite you to appreciate more deeply all that it has taken for each Indigenous student of our university just to be here, given the thousands of Native children who did not survive their schooling.

Robin G. Schulze
College of Arts and Sciences

Theresa McCarthy
(Six Nations, Onondaga)
Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence