St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)

Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) announced Wednesday, June 9 it is developing a strategy for a comprehensive ground analysis of the lands surrounding the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School.

Since the confirmation of unmarked graves of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School was announced on May 27, WLFN Chief Willie Sellars said it has been a whirlwind of emotion as longstanding scars have been painfully reopened within the community, region and throughout Canada.

“The legacy of St. Joseph’s extends well beyond WLFN, or even the Secwepemc, and has impact on the Tsilhqot’in, Dakelh and other Aboriginal groups,” Sellars noted in a news release.

“Our leadership has taken time to gather input and carefully consider our approach and response in relation to the St. Joseph’s Mission site, which is in the heart of our T’exelc territory.”

Sellars said it is clear from discussions with elders in the community, and other communities, that there is considerable knowledge about the horrendous abuse and atrocities that took place for nearly a century.

“It is time to complete the investigation and hopefully find some form of closure on this terrible chapter of Canadian history.”

Read more: Indigenous communities rocked by Kamloops residential school burial discovery

St. Joseph’s Mission operated as a residential school from 1886 to 1981 and was administered by Roman Catholic Oblate missionaries. It was located just a few kilometres away from WLFN’s main community known as Sugar Cane.

“Our council met with respected elders immediately after the TteS (Kamloops) discovery,” said WLFN Coun. Chris Wycotte. “Our knowledge keepers communicated a strong desire to advance the analysis at St. Joseph’s, emphasizing the necessity of careful protocol and ceremony that our ancestors could be proud of.”

WLFN has held three distinct ceremonies, including an inclusive community ceremony in Williams Lake at Williams Lake Secondary School, a four-day sacred fire held at the Sugar Cane Arbour, and a private ceremony at St. Joseph’s Mission that included cultural leaders from Secwepemc, Southern Dakelh, and Tsilhqot’in communities.

Read more: Williams Lake First Nation turns to ceremony, one another in search of healing

“Our elders have reminded us that there is nothing political about honouring our lost loved ones. Empathy, compassion, and honouring our ancestors’ knowledge will give our community strength as we advance this important search,” said WLFN Coun. Shawna Philbrick.

“We stand with the Tsilhqot’in, Dakelh and all other nations that were impacted by the atrocities at St. Joseph’s and promise that we will be tireless in our pursuit of truth and justice.”

The ground analysis will be led by a comprehensive team made up of community elders, cultural advisors, archaeological professionals, WLFN staff and selected professional partners.

Currently the site is owned by a private landowner, however, the band said preliminary discussions with the owner have indicated support of WLFN’s desire to complete the search by using the same ground penetrating radar technology used to discover the unmarked graves at the Kamloops site.

Sellars further acknowledged he has been in communication with Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, and noted the Canadian government has committed to Indigenous communities funding support will be made available once a formal propsal has been submitted.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

First Nationsresidential schoolsWilliams Lake

Just Posted

The Northern Sea Wolf is set to arrive in Bella Coola June 19 and BCVT remains cautiously optimistic for a more “normal” 2021 season (Michael Wigle photo)
Summer ferry service to Bella Coola to start June 19

“We are optimistic for a good tourist season.”

A Category 3 fire ban will go into effect across the entire Cariboo Fire Centre beginning noon on Monday, June 21. (Pixaby photo)
Category 3 fire ban extends across entire Cariboo Fire Centre June 21

Campfires are still permitted, but no larger than half a metre high by half a metre wide

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation planning ground analysis of land near former residential school

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read