***TRIGGER WARNING – This notice contains information about Indian Residential Schools. Read with care.
We are writing to share an update with you about work being done at St. Paul’s Indian Residential School. Today we embark on this difficult journey of investigating the grounds of the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School. Members from our own Tsleil- Waututh Nation as well as our relatives from the Musqueam Nation and the Squamish Nation attended this dark place. We do this work for children that did not return home and those that did return home. We do this work for all our relatives that suffered deeply in this school. We do this work for our descendants, those that are living and those not yet born. We do this work to bring peace to our Ancestors. We do this with the hope that it will bring healing for ourselves and our communities.
Over 2,000 Indigenous children, representing six generations of Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, and other Indigenous communities, were institutionalized at St. Paul’s from grades one through eight. Many of these children were relocated to Kamloops Indian Residential School, where the remains of at least 215 children were confirmed this May. Oral histories told by St. Paul’s survivors include stories about children who disappeared.
This news is difficult to hear because it wasn’t too long ago. This was our parents’ generation, the generation above us. It’s not that far back in history when these schools were closed. It really hits home when it’s this close. You look at all of the pain and hurt our Elders have had to live with, all of these years.
According to public records, 12 unidentified students died while attending St. Paul’s between 1904 and 1913. The goal of this investigation is to find each of these children and bring them home to rest. The process for the investigation is still taking shape. It will involve an inquiry into St. Paul’s Indian Residential School and a field investigation at the site. A preliminary work plan detailing the high-level phases of work includes:
- A formalized interview process with survivors who attended the school, and whose accounts may assist in helping to narrow down, or expand, investigation search areas.
- The gathering of all records related to the school throughout its history.
- Remote sensing searches in defined areas of interest which may include ground- penetrating radar studies or other suitable methods.
We are committed to keeping our Tsleil-Waututh community informed throughout this process. Please take good care of one another and of yourself as new information continues to come to light.
nəc̓əmat tə šxwqweləwən ct (we are of one heart and mind),
Chief Jen Thomas & Gabriel George Sr.
Daughter and son of St. Paul’s Indian Residential School Survivors