Local Indigenous leaders participate in a healing ceremony at Mungo Martin House in Victoria on May 31 for the 215 children whose remains were found near a former residential school in Kamloops last week. A new campaign launched Tuesday by Indigenous leaders to search former residential schools on Vancouver Island themselves has already surpassed its fundraising goal. (Black Press Media file photo)

Local Indigenous leaders participate in a healing ceremony at Mungo Martin House in Victoria on May 31 for the 215 children whose remains were found near a former residential school in Kamloops last week. A new campaign launched Tuesday by Indigenous leaders to search former residential schools on Vancouver Island themselves has already surpassed its fundraising goal. (Black Press Media file photo)

Indigenous leaders want Vancouver Island residential schools searched for victims

Fundraiser launched to finance use of ground-penetrating radar technology

Editor’s note: This article contains details about experiences at residential schools in B.C. and may be upsetting to readers.

Three prominent Vancouver Island Indigenous leaders are raising funds to search the Island’s five residential schools with the same technology used to discover the mass grave site in Kamloops last week.

Tired of waiting on the federal government to take action, filmmaker and journalist Steve Sxwithul’txw, renowned carver Tom LaFortune and educator and producer Michelle Mundy launched a GoFundMe campaign Tuesday to purchase their own searching technology. As of Wednesday morning, the fundraiser has raised more than $28,000, surpassing its original goal of $25,000.

This is the amount Sxwithul’txw estimates they will need to buy one ground-penetrating radar unit. The units consist of a small antenna shaped like a box, which is dragged along the surface of the ground while sending a signal into the soil. If the soil has been disturbed, as it would have been to dig graves, the unit’s signal will change.

READ ALSO: Residential school survivor calling for Canada-wide search of sites after remains of 215 children found

Steve Sxwithul’txw is a journalist, filmmaker and residential school survivor. (Black Press Media file photo)

“It’s about helping our ancestors,” said Sxwithul’txw, a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School. “They have been pushed aside in unmarked graves in places they never wanted to go to in the first place. It’s heartbreaking.”

On Tuesday, former senator and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Murray Sinclair issued a statement saying that more mass grave sites will be found.

“Survivors talked about children who suddenly went missing. Some talked about children who went missing into mass burial sites. Some survivors talked about infants who were born to young girls at the residential schools, infants who had been fathered by priests, were taken away from them and deliberately killed – sometimes thrown into furnaces, we were told,” he said.

For Sxwithul’txw, the next step is engaging with the different First Nations where the residential school properties are located.

“The focus for us is on getting these young children back where they belong,” he said.

READ ALSO: Gitksan grandmother says Canadians need to face the whole truth about residential schools

Despite the renewed pain and anger of the last week, Sxwithul’txw said he’s feeling hopeful. Based on the messages he has received, he believes many of the GoFundMe donations have come from non-Indigenous people who want to do something to help.

“I think these next couple of years are going to be country changing,” he said. “I think we’re seeing the cusp of something much, much bigger and the realization that Canada has failed First Nations in more than one way – they’ve taken our lives.”

Sxwithul’txw said he’s talking with a number of experts, figuring out how they can go about their search, and that he’ll be updating donors along the way. On Vancouver Island, there are 202 children known to have died at five residential schools, although the Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimates the number is actually far higher. These are their names.

Kuper Island Residential School – Penelakut Island (1890-1975)

Adelina Paul

Adeline Celestine Jones

Alfred William

Allen Jameson

Aloysius Daniel

Aloysius Wilson

Amanda Frenchie

Amanda James

Amos Johnson

Andrew Joseph

Angus Crocker

Anna Amie

Annie Pappenburger

Annie Tommy

August Jimmy

August Tseleokanum

Belinda Marie Jack

Bernadette Thomas

Beverly Joseph

Bob Pierre

Caroline Felix

Caroline Jacob

Caroline Williams

Catherine Jacob

Catherine Johnny

Catherine Tom

Celina Thomas

Charlie Bob

Christine Harry

Clothilda Willie

Cosmas Ya-Epoutle

Delphina Theoqualt

Donalda Philip

Eddie Bob

Edgar Basil

Eline Frenchie

Eliza Louis

Eliza Page

Elizabeth Smith

Ellen Casimir

Ellen Moses

Elmer Hardy

Emile Keith

Emily Peter

Emma Williams

Etienne Harry

Eva Hall

Everest Alex George

Felix Antoine

Francois Johnny

Frank Johnny

George Baptist

George George

George Moses (Kuper Island)

Harold Araneda

Harry Johnny

Henry Johnny

Henry Willie

Herbert Gabourie

Ida Tom

Jasper Mitchell

Jeannen Joe

Jim Baptist

Joe Edwards

John Baptist Jim

Johnny Jack

Joseph Basil

Joseph Jacob

Josephine Jacob

Josephine Norris

Jules Tseleskampten

Lena Ruben

Lilly Leo Charlie

Lizzie Johnny

Lizzie Joseph Edward

Louisa Williams

Lucy O’Sheam

Lucy Peter Norris

Mabel Moses

Maggie Bob

Margaret Louis

Maria Mclean

Marie Thorne

Martha Phillip

Mary Agnes Johnston

Mary Josie Siah

Mildred James

Modest Kosteinagant

Moise Jim

Nelson Sophy

Norma Pauline Frank

Norman Clarence Aleck

P. Williams (Kuper Island)

Patricia Marilyn Joseph

Patrick Joe

Peter Siah

Philip Jack

Pierre Bob

Raymond A. Brown

Richard Thomas

Rosalie Moses

Rosalina Johnny

Rosy Michael David

Samuel Anghame

Samuel Whonock

Simon Gontek

Simon Tom

Sophie Baptist

Sophie Casimir

Sophie Joseph

Stanley Frank

Stanley Paul

Theophane Johnny

Thomas Jim

Tommy Aleck

Vera Underwood

Verneda David

Veronica Classetow Canute

William Jones

William Peter

Willie Henry

St. Michaels Residential School – Alert Bay (1894 -1974)

Andrea Helen Alfred

Alfred McKay

Douglas Benson

Eva George

George L. Humchitt

Jackie Archie James

Lucy Gordon

Molly Irene Moon

Mona

Reggie Allan

Samson Edgar

Samson Harris

Sophia Edgar

Thomas Mason

May Nysok

Christie Residential School – Tofino/Meares Island (1900 -1983)

Adolph Maurus

Agnes Amos

Alice George

Anderson Sye

Andrew Tom

Catherine Marshall

Cecil Williams

Clara Andrew

Dolores George

George Johnson

James Louie George

Jessie Lucas

Joan Manson

Joseph Ignace

Lawrence Thompson

Lorena Thomas

Mary Vincent

Moses Tom

Pearl Michael

Rose Johnson

Samson Mclean

Stanley Joseph

Thomas Campbell

Alberni Residential School – Port Alberni (1900 -1973)

Annie Jack

Bertha Fred

Cyril Mussel

Dalton Silver

David Thomas

Edward Thompson

Gary Hopkins

Gary James Hopkins

Gary Ross

Gerald Wilson

Herb Robert Green

Ivan Wilson

Jack Williams

Katie Taylor

Lily Peal Smith

Maisie Shaw

Mary Bob

Mary Elaine George

Mary Taylor

Maud Jackson

Mitchell Joseph

Nellie Kiutesi

Norman Bob

Ramona Taylor

Shirley Leslie Williams

Taylor Santo

Theodore Mckay

Violet McKay

Virginia Moses

Yinnito Taylor

Ahousaht Residential School – Ahousaht Island (1904 -1940)

Arthur

Bella Peter

Carrie George

Dora Noshkepy

Edward Arnold

Emil Howard

Frank Ubaldus

George Quisot

Katie Manulth

May Harris

Sophie Noothlenu

Tillian Mckay

William Maquina

The GoFundMe, called Find Our Lost Children, can be found at gofundme.com.

Residential school survivors who need support can call the National Indian Residential School Crisis Line at 1-866-925-4419.

With files from The Canadian Press


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

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