Caution: This story contains distressing details
Phyllis Webstad and the Orange Shirt Society have released a statement after a potential 66 more burial sites have been located in Williams Lake, B.C.
A lead investigator has concluded that at least 28 children died on the grounds at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School site in Williams Lake, B.C., where Webstad attended. They also identified 66 more potential burial sites.
"How does one prepare for this news?" says Webstad in an official statement. "How do we prepare for the news that confirms what we have known to be true? We, as Survivors, have had to sit with this truth our entire lives and now, finally, the rest of the world is realizing these truths too."
Whitney Spearing and the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) investigation team, spent the last year interviewing survivors, gathering documents and surveying approximately 0.18 square kilometres on the grounds of the former St. Joseph's Mission site.
"Even though we have all come to the same conclusion – that what happened at these schools is abuse and in some cases murder – we still have to sit with the knowledge that our loved ones will never return home. That knowledge has never been, nor will ever be, easy to process."
The team used ground-penetrating radar technologies during phase two of their investigation.
"Though it is difficult, this news once again validates our truths as Survivors. That’s why the continuation of this work is so important. We cannot have Reconciliation without the Truth, and the confirmation of children’s remains found at The Mission serves as validation of our truths. Now that our truths are being acknowledged, it’s time to take action."
One year ago the 14-hectare investigation found 93 possible burial sites. Now the total is 159.
"To the rest of this nation known as Canada, I ask that you continue to listen and acknowledge the past. Reconciliation requires participation and your role is important," says Webstad. "Your allyship and willingness to have conversations is taking us closer to our goal of true Reconciliation. “I continue to pray and grieve with the Survivors and their families from Nations forced to attend The Mission, including Secwépemc (Shuswap), Tsilhqot’in (Chilcotin), St’at’imc (Lillooet), Dakelh (Southern Carrier), and Nuxalk (Bella Coola). We must take this time to grieve and look after one another. You are not alone."
The investigation team spoke about starting phase three during a news conference and that 'a lot of work remains ahead of us.'
"I continue to be grateful to you for telling your stories. Remember that you matter, you are important and you are seen. The world is listening. Continue to tell your truths and remember that Every Child Matters."
The National Residential School Crisis Line is available for Survivors and those who need it at 1-866-925-4419.