Content warning: anti-Indigenous violence and death. The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line provides counselling support 24/7 to survivors of residential schools at 1-866-925-4419.
On May 28, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation discovered the bodies of 215 Indigenous children in mass graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. These children were ripped away from their homes, their mothers, their fathers, their siblings… never to return. They were pushed into a facility that eliminated their culture and language through violence and ruthless emotional and sexual abuse.
We extend our deepest condolences and solidarity to survivors and all families affected.
Although 215 children’s bodies were found, it is certain that there are more still unaccounted for of the thousands of children killed. Residential schools were a systematic effort, fully sponsored by the Canadian government, to completely eliminate Indigenous culture and forcefully assimilate Indigenous peoples to the point of invisibility. This is genocide.
While residential schools may be historical, the resulting intergenerational trauma is not, and policies of the federal government continue to undermine the rights of Indigenous peoples. The horrific discovery of these children’s bodies has sparked another round of conversation about Truth and Reconciliation. It is unacceptable for settlers to simply mourn; non-Indigenous people who live here, white and racialized alike, still benefit from colonialism. We must educate ourselves, acknowledge the systemic racism that continues to harm Indigenous families, and take action.
SCWIST is committed to realizing the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For the STEM community, this includes having difficult conversations about the rights of Indigenous peoples, particularly in the context of natural resource extraction and the intersections of climate change and human rights.
SCWIST is an organization that promotes participation in science – we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that one form of this abuse was highly unethical nutritional experiments on residential school children. These actions are atrocious and we, as members and supporters of the scientific community, must recognize the hurtful legacy of these experiments and stay vigilant about upholding best practices for research, particularly when working with Indigenous groups.
We have a responsibility to actively participate in reconciliation. Here’s what non-Indigenous folk can do:
- Re-read the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and think about how you can implement the Calls to Action personally and in your STEM organization.
- Amplify the calls for justice from Indigenous peoples
- Learn about the current education situation for First Nations children
- Acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which you live and the ways you benefit from living there
- Contact your MP to urge them to implement the TRC Calls to Action
- Support survivors by donating to the Indian Residential School Survivors Society
- Register for the University of Alberta’s free massive open online course on Indigenous Canada
- Talk to your friends and family about residential schools and your responsibility for reconciliation
- Seek out other ideas and resources for anti-racism