Since May 27, 2021, when Chief Casimir of the Kamloops Indian Band solemnly announced that 215 graves had been found in the apple orchard on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS), Canada has been convulsed in an unusual state of anguish and mourning for 215 indigenous students of that school who – according to the news reports – died under suspicious circumstances at the school and were clandestinely buried under the cover of night.
Somehow, claimed the media, the lives of 215 children had come to an abrupt end at the school, and on 215 separate occasions nuns, priests and school officials had conspired to bury these children in the apple orchard, by the light of the moon, with children “as young as six” dragged from their beds and conscripted into digging graves for their fallen companions.
Flags flew at half-mast in Ottawa for months. A national day of mourning – National Truth and Reconciliation Day – was created. A billion dollars at the minimum was spent mourning these deaths and searching for thousands of more clandestine burials that were spontaneously claimed by other indigenous communities, from coast to coast.
This is an extraordinary response to extraordinary claims. But such claims require the same, if not a higher, burden of proof as any other. Is there credible evidence that any of these fantastical claims are true?
The only “scientific” evidence was a report from a junior archaeologist, (with questionable radar expertise), operating a ground penetrating radar machine. But despite reports, she didn’t detect “graves”, she detected soil disturbances that she thought might be graves. It has since been determined that these soil disturbances are much more likely to be previous excavations carried out in that same apple orchard – most probably a disused sewage trench from 1924. Only the Kamloops Band’s refusal to release that report prevents confirmation of the junior archaeologist’s apparent mistake.
The only other “evidence” offered were stories of secret burials that had circulated through the community. But these stories were clearly in the nature of conspiracy theories. They include stories of priests incinerating indigenous children in furnaces and hanging their bodies on hooks in barns. They also include stories of Queen Elizabeth personally kidnapping indigenous children. Simply put, these are bizarre tales, closer to children’s ghost stories than a historical record.
The fact is, there is no historical record of any Kamloops parent, or other indigenous parent from other communities served by the school, reporting that their child had mysteriously disappeared after attending the Kamloops school.
Indigenous parents are no different from any other parent. They love their children, and if their child had suddenly disappeared, they would obviously raise the alarm. They would complain to their chief, the police, the newspapers, their Indian Agent, the Department of Indian Affairs, and anyone else who would listen.
Yet there was not a single report.
The other evidence all points to the fact that these stories of secret burials by priests late at night, and six-year-olds forced to dig graves, and Queen Elizabeth stealing children from their schools are just that. Stories. There is currently no credible evidence that there is anyone buried in the Kamloops IRS apple orchard.