—— By Tim Petruk/Castanet

Three years after an announcement that made headlines around the world and prompted new conversations about reconciliation, the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc band says details about the ongoing investigation into what are believed to be unmarked burial sites are being kept top secret.

That’s what Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir said in a statement on Monday, the third anniversary of the announcement of the findings of a ground-penetrating radar survey of the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

On May 27, 2021, the band issued a news release detailing the findings of a ground-penetrating radar survey taken on the grounds of the former school four days earlier. The initial release said as many as 215 unmarked graves had been located on the property.

The band was given jurisdiction over the investigation early on.

“Three years later, we remain steadfast in our sacred duty as guardians to the missing children from the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” Casimir said in the statement.

“From the beginning, we have articulated and exercised our jurisdiction. The investigation continues to be carried out in compliance with Secwepemc laws, legal traditions, worldviews, values and protocols.”

Casimir said details about the investigation are being kept secret for the time being.

“Our investigative findings and investigative steps are currently being kept confidential to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” she said.

“Our investigators’ findings to date are consistent with the presence of unmarked burials.”

Casimir said the investigation has included archival and documentary research and analysis, truth telling with Kamloops Indian Residential School survivors and archeological and anthropological surveys and studies. “Potential DNA and other forensic methods” is also listed.

Casimir also urged allies to “refute the very real harm caused by denialists.” She said band leaders knew there would be pushback before the initial announcement was made.

“There have always been those who target Indigenous people in Canada, with systemic racism and white supremacy as foundational to Canada as the very federal laws that ripped our children away from home, in cattle trucks and police cars, to bring them to residential schools,” she said.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government assumed control and ran the facility as a day school for another nine years.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2016 detailed the harsh mistreatment of students at Canadian residential schools, where at least 3,200 children died amid abuse and neglect.

News of the Tk’emlups announcement in 2021 prompted similar investigations at other former residential schools, and more recently a debate over whether such sites should be excavated.