Statement and resources in response to the ongoing findings of the remains of children at Indian Residential Schools.

(Content Warning: Residential Schools; Ongoing and Historical Trauma)

First and foremost, the Indigenous Initiatives team at the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology would like to express our solidarity, sorrow, and outrage with the T’exelcemc and all the Nations impacted by the preliminary results of the geophysical investigations of the former St. Joseph’s Mission site. Our love is boundless for the Survivors and their families.

On January 25th, Williams Lake First Nation announced that 93 sites of “potential human burials” were identified on the former site of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. This recovery works in conjunction with Survivor’s testimonies from within the community. St. Joseph’s operated as a Residential School from 1886 and operated until 1981, a mere 41 years ago. Thousands of Indigenous children were forced to attend the school and faced many unspeakable horrors. For more information and to watch the full press release, please take a moment to view the recording here.  

Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellers said that, “there can be no reconciliation before there is truth,” during his press conference. Since the confirmation of 215 unmarked graves in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation this spring, over 1000 unmarked graves have been found at Residential School sites from the prairies to the west coast. The reverberations of these recoveries ripples across communities, impacting Indigenous people very deeply in complex ways. The news confirms truths we know have already been shared by Survivors. It reminds us of the hard and necessary truths that need to be continually processed and acted upon as we resist and dismantle the ongoing violence of settler colonialism. 

The information that has recently come to light has different impacts for different people and communities. 

To Indigenous colleagues, Indigenous faculty, and Indigenous students at UBC, we express our solidarity, care, outrage, and love as you continue to move through this grief and mourning. We hope for abundance for our communities, and that you are able to find places of gentleness, and space to breathe and process in your way. 

The UBC Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) healing and wellness resources includes a list of self-care strategies and resources for survivors, family members, Indigenous peoples and community members, students, and UBC faculty and staff

The Indian Residential School Emergency Crisis Line is available 24/7 for those that may need counselling and support 1-800-721-0066. Alternatively, the 24 hour National Crisis Line is also available 1-866-925-4419.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line is open to all Indigenous Peoples across Canada, and offers 24-hour mental health counselling, via phone 1-855-242-3310 or chat Line.Call 310-6789 (no area code needed) toll-free anywhere in BC to access emotional support, information and resources specific to mental health and substance use issues. Available 24 hours a day.

The KUU-US Crisis Line Society operates a 24-hour provincial Aboriginal Crisis line for: adults, elders and youth. See more here.
Adult/Elder Crisis Line: 250-723-4050
Child/Youth Crisis Line: 250-723-2040
BC Wide Toll Free: 1-800-588-8717
Métis Crisis Line BC Toll Free: 1-833-638-4722

We understand that non-Indigenous members of our community are processing this ongoing news as well, and may be feeling responses to this information and wanting to further their own learning with care and responsibility. We ask you to give space to your Indigenous colleagues and students to process this ongoing grief. The news cycle may stop mentioning these tragedies, but these are ongoing realities that Indigenous people continue to hold throughout time.

Understand that capacity may be low, and that flexibility in schedules and syllabi may be needed. Check-in and work to create safer spaces for Indigenous colleagues and students to express their needs as they continue to process. 

Drawing from a draft document that our colleagues at the UBC Equity & Inclusion Office have been working on, we share some suggestions for those who are inviting conversations about this in the workplace or the classroom:

  • Set a clear purpose for the conversation. Trying to meet different purposes – such as showing care, processing together, strategizing responses, and prioritizing actions – at once can be awkward, confusing, or frustrating.
  • Consider whether involving everyone in the conversation is appropriate and what needs to happen in advance of conversations, such as smaller conversations between different self-selecting groups. 
  • Advise participants in the conversation about the goals and structure beforehand and allow people to choose whether and how to participate, and to ask questions and comment beforehand. Where possible, adjust the goals or format of the meetings in response to the concerns addressed while prioritizing the needs of those most impacted.
  • Share resources and concrete offers of support, and allow people to take time away if necessary

Information is essential in processing, understanding, and feeling seen. We would like to share a few resources that have been helpful to us:


Want to reach out to an Indigenous scholar? Awesome! But first, here are 10 things to consider by Jesse Popp We really want to stress that Indigenous faculty and staff are running at full capacity, while balancing the weight of ongoing settler-colonialism. Please take a moment to read this article by Jesse Popp on things to consider before reaching out to an Indigenous scholar, especially in times of mourning.
Read, Listen, Tell: Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island, eds. Sophie McCall, Deanna Reder, David Gaertner, and Gabrielle L’Hirondelle. (2017)  an anthology of Indigenous stories that includes an introduction that guides readers on how to listen and the power of listening. (Full text available at UBC Library)
@BraidedArrows Facebook Live Conversation May 29, 2021  We would like to amplify this conversation featuring the voices of Tasha, Andrea, and Rachelle, two Indigenous women and one black woman speaking about ways that non-Indigenous folks can support Indigenous folks to have difficult and supportive conversations in response to devastating events such as this one. You do not need a facebook account to view. 
Historica Canada: Voices from Here This set of videos and summaries features testimonies by residential and day school Survivors, as well as the ongoing effects of such policies. Its main purpose is to promote a difficult and, at times, uncomfortable conversation about colonialism and racism in Canada. However, you may find it emotionally triggering, so please consider taking care of yourself and others when sharing and discussing this content. 
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Volume 4: Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials The TRC website contains foundational documentation and reporting, including resources for teaching and learning. Volume 4 is especially important. 
Our People WIll Be Healed a documentary by Alanis Obomsawin (Stream for free on the National Film Board site) Following students and staff of the Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre in Norway House, MB, Our People Will Be Healed is a documentary showing the transformative power of community centred education. It is important to educate ourselves on the atrocities of the past, but it’s also important to also see where healing is happening.
Xwi7xwa Library Guide on critical Indigenous literacy on Residential Schools for children  Talking about Residential Schools with children can be difficult. This resource by the Xwi7xwa library outlines the importance of critical literacy for children and provides a list of books.