On Friday, November 16th, the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation and the Canadian government announced that $2.7 million would be given in funding to try to identify additional unmarked gravesites around a former residential school near Port Alberni.
The Alberni Indian Residential School operated from 1892 to 1973 under the United Church as well as the Presbyterian Church.
Over 70 First Nations were impacted by the Alberni Indian Residential School stripping their children of their culture while subjecting them to horrifying abuse in some cases.
- What to know about Vancouver Island’s residential schools prior to National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
In February of this year, 17 potential unmarked graves were found by the Tseshaht First Nation and ʔuuʔatumin yaqckʷiimitqin (Doing it for our Ancestors), an organization formed in order to locate the unmarked gravesites of Indigenous children who died while attending residential schools.
These 17 potential gravesites were located by scanning the ground with LiDAR technology which scans the earth to reveal what lies underneath.
The Tseshaht First Nation was only able to get 10% of the 100 acres around Alberni Indian Residential School scanned back in February and now seek to scan more of that region.
“Tseshaht has always supported [Alberni Indian Residential School] Survivors and this funding will ensure the truth is shared as there is no reconciliation without first truth,” said Wally Samuel, Ahousaht First Nation Alberni Indian Residential School Survivor.
“We recognize that the [Alberni Indian Residential School] closed its doors 50 years ago in 1973 led by our Nuu-chah-nulth leaders. We look forward to Canada contributing these funds so Tseshaht and Survivors can carry on this sacred yet difficult work,” Samuel added.
This $2.7 million is the second installment to the Tseshaht First Nation from the federal government, bringing the total amount of funding they have received to $3.2 million.
This money will be going toward research and knowledge gathering, ceremony and cultural activities as well as planning for the future.
The Tseshaht First Nation plans on constructing a memorial and continuing ongoing field work with Doing it for our Ancestors on their investigations using geophysical search technologies like LiDAR.