ROTHENBURGER – Discovery of gravesites highlights the tragedy of Indian residential schools

Sewing class at Kamloops residential school, late 1950s. (Image: Govt of Canada)

THE GRIM DISCOVERY of the apparent gravesites of 215 children will undoubtedly change some thinking about what went on at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the almost 90 years it operated.

The confirmation of their existence after 20 years of searching is obviously traumatic for all Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc members as well as those from other bands who had children at the school.

Until now, though, non-indigenous Kamloops residents have tended to view the local residential school from a perspective of knowing only that the system of which it was part was “a bad thing.” For them, this week’s news is the harshest of history lessons.

“This must be just the tip of the iceberg,” some people have been saying this week. “It must have happened in other residential schools, too.”

Indeed, the burial of deceased students in unmarked graves did happen at other Indian residential schools, too. They died accidentally, or from tuberculosis, pneumonia or influenza, from malnutrition or suicide.


Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9116 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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