Tom LaFortune, left, Steve Sxwithul’txw and Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse were among those in attendance for a cheque presentation at the band office Sept. 15. LaFortune and Sxwithul’txw organized a GoFundMe campaign, with proceeds funding a search for unmarked graves at a site in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

Tom LaFortune, left, Steve Sxwithul’txw and Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse were among those in attendance for a cheque presentation at the band office Sept. 15. LaFortune and Sxwithul’txw organized a GoFundMe campaign, with proceeds funding a search for unmarked graves at a site in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)

First Nation welcomes donation to help with search of Nanaimo Indian Hospital site

Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse says former patients have said the grounds need to be examined

Members of Snuneymuxw First Nation are welcoming a donation which will go toward searching the grounds of the old Nanaimo Indian Hospital for unmarked graves.

Organizers of the Find Our Lost Children fundraising effort, which raises money to help First Nations search for the remains of children who died because of residential schools, presented a cheque of $77,250 in GoFundMe-raised money to Snuneymuxw at its band office today, Sept. 15. The money is meant to assist the First Nation with its search of the old hospital site, located near Vancouver Island University.

Earl Manson recounted his experiences at the hospital and said they were traumatic.

“I remember running around under the beds, they were so high,” said Manson. “And getting strapped in my bed and because I was so small I could get away (because) they were chasing me around trying to catch me … we don’t have any records. I’d like to know the year and the day I was in there. How many of our members were in there, besides myself and my sisters and my brother? That’s what I’d like to see get done.”

Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse said the search will be daunting, but the nation has heard from past patients who suggested that the site needs to be examined.

The chief said the money will help in bringing “professional support” for ground-penetrating radar examination of the grounds.

“It’s been [torn] down for quite some time now and it’ll allow us to go there and look at the site, bring some professionals in there to oversee and take that approach,” Wyse said.

He said efforts to obtain hospital records are ongoing in order to assist the First Nation.

“We’ve got a location at our cemetery where we’ve got about 60 unmarked graves that were brought … back in the time there was no money to bring them back home,” said Wyse. “They were patients at the hospital that were from the West Coast, up Island, south Island, that died there.”

Wyse also said no one seems to be taking responsibility for the bodies.

“It’s very frustrating, but that day’s going to come where we’re going to be able to sit with them and say, ‘You know, the wrongs that have been done, it’s time to fix them and accept the responsibility,” said Wyse.

Snuneymuxw is also in discussion with Telus in relation to examination of a site near Fitzwilliam Street in Nanaimo, said Wyse.

For more information on Find Our Lost Children, go to www.gofundme.com/f/find-our-lost-children.

RELATED: Snuneymuxw receives $77K to search old Indian Hospital site

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reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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