On May 27, 2021, it was with a heavy heart that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc confirmed an unthinkable loss that was spoken about but never documented by the Kamloops Indian Residential School. With the help of a ground penetrating radar specialist, the stark truth of the preliminary findings came to light – the confirmation of the remains of 215 children who were students of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the home community of the Kamloops Indian Residential School which was the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system. As such, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Leadership acknowledges their responsibility to caretake for these lost children.
This work was undertaken by the C7élksten̓s re Secwépemc ne Ck̓úl̓tens ell ne Xqwelténs (Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Language and Culture Department) with ceremonial Knowledge Keepers who ensured that the work was conducted respectfully in light of the serious nature of the investigation with cultural protocols being upheld.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) noted that large numbers of Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools never returned to their home communities. Some children ran away, and others died at the schools. The students who did not return have come to be known as the Missing Children. The Missing Children Project documents the deaths and the burial places of children who died while attending the schools. To date, more than 4,100 children who died while attending a residential school have been identified.
Dates of Operation
May 19, 1890 – July 31, 1978
The Kamloops Industrial School (later known as the Kamloops Indian Residential School) was opened, under Roman Catholic administration, in 1890. It quickly became the largest school in the Indian Affairs residential school system. Enrolment peaked in the early 1950s at 500.
Issues plagued the school, in 1910, the principal said that the government did not provide enough money to properly feed the students and in 1924, a portion of the school was destroyed by fire. In 1969, the federal government took over the administration of the school, and operated it as residence for students attending local day schools until 1978, when the residence was closed.
The home communities of the children included Neskonlith, North Thompson, Kamloops, Pavilion, Penticton, Adams Lake, Bonaparte, Fountain, Douglas Lake, Okanagan, Quilchena, Shulus, Little Shuswap, Coldwater, Lower Nicola, Bridge R. Enderby, Deadman’s Creek, Hope, Leon’s Creek, Cayoose, Salmon River, Canoe Creek, Lillooet, Mount Currie (Lilwat Nation), D’Arcy (Nquatqua), Seabird Island, Skwah, Union Bar, Head of Lake, Deroche, Spuzzum, Shalalth, Simpcw, Skeetchestn, High Bar, Esketemc, Williams Lake, Soda Creek Stswecenc, Canim Lake, Whispering Pines, Okanagan, Lillooet, Sto:lo and Spalumcheen.
*Note: It is Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc community and leadership’s understanding that there were children that came from other communities not listed here.