Statement in support of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Release of Report Findings

15 July 2021


[Content Warning: This statement discusses child death; residential schools; colonialism;

genocide; generational trauma]

Today, Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc has released information about the preliminary ground-penetrating radar investigation undertaken by Dr. Sarah Beaulieu around the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Dr. Beaulieu engaged with Knowledge Keepers and Cultural Monitors to perform a preliminary, exploratory survey of an area where the experiences and testimonies of survivors indicated the presence of graves. The ground-penetrating radar work was undertaken by an experienced expert using best practices for the application of ground-penetrating radar to find possible unmarked graves and identified 200 targets of interest in the area surveyed. These targets have many characteristics of grave shafts identified in other contexts and are strongly indicative of burial locations. Further investigation of these targets is warranted, as is additional survey of other areas of the grounds associated with the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Testimonies of survivors indicate other graves are likely to be found in other areas around the Kamloops IRS.

Survivors and Indigenous communities have been speaking the truth of their experiences in so-called “residential schools” and related institutions for decades; it should not have taken the use of scientific techniques for the necessary attention to be paid to the truth of what happened to the survivors and to the children who never came home. 

As AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald states: “We have always known.”

It is essential that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and other Indigenous nations are provided with all the resources they need as they undertake further work to find the burial locations of their children and take the next steps they deem necessary, including calls for justice and accountability. We at the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology (IPIA) support the call of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to release the Student Attendance Records and to provide additional immediate and long-term resources from the federal and provincial governments. As noted in the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc media release, access to experts is critical:

“This work requires significant resources that includes dedicated and qualified

personnel to bring truth to light and peace to family members of the missing children. This is what drove Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc to reach out to the Canadian Archaeological Association and the Institute of Indigenous and Prairie Archeology. It is also why Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc are offering a free webinar next week on remote sensing and grave detection in partnership with them.”

At the IPIA, we recognize the important role archaeological techniques can play in supporting communities to locate where their missing children might be buried. We are Indigenous-led and recognized as a national and international leader in using various remote sensing technologies (including ground-penetrating radar and drone mounted sensors) in burial contexts across the prairie provinces. We invite communities to reach out to us should they need advice on how best to approach the surveys around their schools in the hopes we may provide additional information and help navigating these emotional contexts. We also invite federal and provincial governments to reach out to us about how to coordinate and ensure communities have access to reliable, independent expert advice around the application of remote sensing for grave detection. Our Director, Kisha Supernant (Métis) is Chair of the Unmarked Graves Working Group of the Canadian Archaeological Association, which is developing resources for Indigenous communities about best practices around the use of remote sensing to detect unmarked graves.


For more information about IPIA:

For more information about the upcoming webinar:

For more information about resources for communities developed by the Unmarked Graves Working Group of the Canadian Archaeological Association:

For those needing emotional support or assistance: 

Indian Residential School 24 Hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-866-414-8111

Quebec: 1-877-583-2965

Ontario: 1-888-301-6426

Manitoba: 1-866-818-3505

Saskatchewan: 1-866-250-1529

Alberta: 1-888-495-6588

British Columbia: 1-877-477-0775

Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut: 1-800-464-8106