Two more parcels of land have been searched via additional ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc revealed at a press conference on Thursday (Sept. 30) marking the first annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In May, the band searched two acres of land southeast of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, between the South Thompson River and Secwépemc Museum, that revealed signs of 200 probable graves, leading to international attention and outcry over the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples through Canada’s former residential school system.
On Thursday, Tk’emlúps Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir told reporters the band has done additional GPR surveys, but still has “a long way to go.”
Asked if any more signs of graves had been found, Casimir said artifacts were found, noting a report will be coming to band council. When that will be is unknown, but a band spokesperson said the media will be notified when it does as it is in the public interest.
Casimir did not specify the locations of the parcels of land searched, their size, the nature of the artifacts found or how long after the May surveys the additional GPR surveys took place.
In July, the band noted about 160 acres of land still needed to be searched with GPR technology, which can detect the presence of soil disturbances that present as possible graves, but not confirm their existence.
In September, the band said excavation of the probable burial sites has not yet been undertaken and it is working on various issues surrounding the site, but has done non-invasive work to date.
Ground-penetrating radar expert Dr. Sarah Beaulieu of the University of the Fraser Valley led the May search south of the former residential school building. She said the search found signs of 200 probable graves.
“With ground-penetrating radar, we can never say definitely they are human remains until you excavate, which is why we need to pull back a little bit and say they are probable burials, they are targets of interest,” Beaulieu said at a July 16 press conference. “They have multiple signatures that present as burials, but because of that, we have to say they are probable until one excavates.”
Casimir said during a Sept. 17 press conference there is a lot of work involved in the archaeological process and Tk’emlúps has laws in place with respect to archaeological remains.
She said Tk’emlups has spoken with the RCMP, with legal representatives and with B.C. Attorney General David Eby and federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti in creating “that path forward.”
“This has been very traumatic and this has really impacted so many, so we really want to make sure that we have a process that’s moving forward, that’s going to be recognizing all the law, as well as, you know, respecting our law,” Casimir said.
Casimir said an event is planned for mid-October, at which time more information is expected to be released.
“I know we have a lot of work on the go and we also have more GPR work that needs to be done, and so we know that this is going to be a process that is probably going to take years to move forward on,” she said.
Michael Potestio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kamloops This Week