Editor’s note: This article contains details about residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers. Please contact The Indian Residential School Survivors Society toll-free 1 (800) 721-0066 or 24hr Crisis Line 1 (866) 925-4419 if you require emotional support or assistance.
A North Island First Nation has announced plans to probe its residential school past with ground-penetrating radar.
The ‘Namgis First Nation is starting its inquiry into the former St. Michael’s Indian Residential School (IRS) grounds located on Cormorant Island.
“Our priority is to support the mental health and wellness of the survivors, inter-generational survivors of St. Michael’s IRS, and all community members effected by the trauma of the history of Canadian IRS,” the nation said via a statement to media.
The ‘Namgis plan to engage with those affected by the school before directing contractors to examine the former grounds of St. Michael’s “where potential burial sites are planned to be recovered.”
“This is a collaborative project which will involve ‘Namgis First Nation Chief and Council, St. Michael’s IRS survivors, a project steering committee, and the communities connected to the former grounds. The investigation will be completed in phases starting with contracting a project manager to assist the ‘Namgis First Nation with access to funding, and begin research reviewing archives, historical records, and oral history to initiate the investigation.”
Part of that includes inviting survivors from the 45 First Nations who attended St. Michael’s IRS to take part in community engagements in Alert Bay.
The ‘Namgis plan to publicly release the results of the investigation and create a commemorative monument on the former school grounds to honour children who were unable to return to their families.
As this is a difficult topic for many to relive, “throughout the project the steering committee will provide access to culturally safe and trauma informed mental health supports for survivors, and their descendants, plus all community members. The steering committee is also welcoming survivors who are dedicated to being on an advisory council to join the investigation.”
For further information please email the Steering Committee StMichaelsIRS@namgis.bc.ca
St. Michael’s IRS was active in Alert Bay on Cormorant Island from 1894 to 1974. The building was torn down in 2015.