Photo Credit: U'mista Culltuarl Society/ Facebook

Island Residential School Survivors Not Waiting For Government

Fundraising has started for scanning the 10-acre grounds at the former Kuper Island Residential School

While Ottawa and Victoria twiddle their thumbs, Island Residential School survivors are taking matters into their own hands

The federal and provincial governments are struggling to respond appropriately to the horrible discovery of the remains of 215 children in a mass grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. That’s why school survivors on Vancouver Island are taking matters into their own hands.

As of June 3, a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to pay for ground-penetrating radar to search the five former Vancouver Island residential school properties had reached more than $73,000, far exceeding the $25,000 target.

Both Ottawa and the province are being pressured to pay for searches, but neither has made solid commitments. Fundraising organizer Steve Sxwithul’twx, a Kuper Island Residential School survivor, said First Nations are not prepared to wait.

“We have to start the search for our lost children,” Sxwithul’txw told the Times Colonist in a report published June 2. “Who knows how long the process will take [for governments]? It’s a bureaucratic mess.”

The search for remains at the former Kamloops residential school grounds began in 2001. Using a machine that can be pushed like a lawnmower, it can take several hours to scan a 50 metre by 50-metre site, and much longer to analyze the data.

The goal is to start scanning the 10-acre grounds at the former Kuper Island Residential School, where there were 107 documented deaths of children. Kuper Island, renamed Penelakut Island, is located north of Salt Spring Island and east of Chemainus.

Experts believe the remains of indigenous students were buried on the grounds of the island’s disgraced residential school between 1890 and 1975 when it was closed. Sxwithul’txw said eventually they hope to move on to the other four Island schools – St. Michaels Residential School in Alert Bay, Christie School near Tofino, Alberni Residential School in Port Alberni and Ahousaht Residential School.

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