On Thursday Jun. 24, an indigenous group in Canada, Cowessess First Nation, said they had discovered an estimated 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in in Saskatchewan to assimilate indigenous children.
It comes just weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at another former indigenous school, the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, in British Columbia.
The latest discovery at Marieval Indian Residential School, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Church from 1899 to 1997 as part of a Canada-wide network of schools set up to forcibly separate indigenous children from their families and assimilate them, is the largest to date.
The Cowessess group launched their investigation on June 2, using ground-penetrating radar to locate the bodies.
Considering the 10 to 15% machine error, they have confirmed at least 600 unmarked graves at the site, the group’s chief, Cadmus Delorme, said in a press conference, according to the New York Times.
“We cannot affirm that they are all children,” Chief Delorme said. “There are oral stories that there are adults in this grave site as well.” On Saturday, the group held a vigil at the site of the graves.
A six year investigation into the system in 2015 found that it constituted “cultural genocide”. It revealed the physical abuse, rape, malnutrition and other atrocities experienced by the at least 150,000 children who attended the schools between the 1840s and the 1990s.
The report also found that 4,100 children died while attending residential schools.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau said it was “a shameful reminder of the systemic racism, discrimination, and injustice that Indigenous peoples have faced”.
Indigenous leaders are demanding an inquiry, and Chief Delorme also called for Pope Francis to apologize.