Caution: This story contains distressing details
Williams Lake First Nation is grieving after discovering close to 100 possible human remains locations at the former St. Joseph’s Mission site.
On Tuesday, Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN), located 330 km northeast of Vancouver in the San Jose River Valley, announced the first phase of their geophysical investigation had come to a close at the former St. Joseph’s Mission site.
The 14-hectare investigation found 93 possible burial sites. They searched the Onward Ranch, which they took control of in 1964. It now has private owners.
"There is much more work to do on the St. Joseph’s site, and we have every intention of continuing with this work," WLFN Chief Willie Sellars says in a media release.
Aerial Light Imaging Range Detection, Terrestrial LiDAR, Low flight aerial imagery, Magnetometry, magnetic susceptibility, and Ground Penetrating Radar were used in the investigation.
The site operated between1886 and 1981. Thousands of Indigenous children from the area attended the school. It was set up by the Government of Canada and run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
"For now, it’s important that everyone focus on their own wellness, and the wellness of those around them. I’m encouraging everyone to reach out to others, to engage in ceremony or to access the various supports available."
The next phase will include investigating the entire 480-hectare site, along with further research and interviews with Survivors.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have not released a response to Tuesday's announcement.
For those seeking support, the Indian Residential School Survivors Society can be reached 24/7 by calling 1-866-925-4419.