The Lower Kootenay Band, a member band of the Ktunaxa Nation, has announced that remains were found at the site of the former St. Eugene’s Mission School near the city of Cranbrook.
“It is believed that the remains of these 182 souls are from the member Bands of the Ktunaxa nation, neighbouring First Nations communities, & the community of aqam,” the Lower Kootenay Band said in a statement released Wednesday.
Approximately 100 Lower Kootenay Band members were required to attend the St. Eugene’s Mission School. The residential school was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1912 until the early 1970s, the statement said. Indigenous children ages 7 to 15 were mandated by the Canadian government to attend the schools.
“The Lower Kootenay Band is still in the very early stages of receiving information from the reports of the findings but will provide updates as time progresses,” the statement said. “The Lower Kootenay Band has living survivors of the St. Eugene’s Mission School & requests that the general public respect our privacy at this time.”
They are the latest in a string of recent events affecting the country’s Indigenous communities. The churches were destroyed as Canada confronts its history of systemic abuse of Indigenous communities.
CNN reached out to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archdiocese of Vancouver for comment about the fires.
While authorities have not discussed a possible motive for the fires, the Lower Similkameen Indian Band’s chief and council said in a statement about the fires on Saturday that they understand the “grief and rage” felt by people across Indian country in the wake of the discovery of remains of hundreds of children on the grounds of a former school in the southern interior of British Columbia.
“This is a symptom of the intergenerational trauma our survivors and intergenerational descendants are experiencing, there are supports to help deal with these emotions in a more healing way,” the Lower Similkameen Indian Band’s leaders said.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez and Harmeet Kaur contributed to this report.