At least 750 unmarked graves have been discovered at the site of a former residential school for indigenous children in Canada.
Investigators found the unmarked graves at the Marieval Indian Residential School, near Grayson, Saskatchewan, Chief Cadmusn Delmore of the Cowessess First Nation, said on Thursday.
“This was a crime against humanity, an assault on First Nations,” Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations said. “We will not stop until we find all the bodies.”
The now-defunct Catholic residential school system was run by the government and church groups from the 19th century until the late 1990’s intending to assimilate indigenous children. Many were subjected to horrific abuse.
The Marieval Indian Residential School operated from 1899 to 1997 where Cowessess is now located, about 140km (87 miles) east of Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan.
The Cowessess First Nation began a ground-penetrating radar search on 2 June, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia outraged the country. Those graves belonged to members of the Tk’emlúps te SecweÌpemc indigenous people.
Announcements of both discoveries have been met with grief and outrage, with Canada‘s prime minister Justin Trudeau saying after the first discovery it was not “an isolated incident”.
“The news that hundreds of unmarked graves have been found in Cowessess First Nation is absolutely tragic, but not surprising,” Perry Bellegarde, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations tweeted on Wednesday.
He added: “I urge all Canadians to stand with First Nations in this extremely difficult and emotional time.”
The 150,000 First Nations children taken from their families and forced to attend such schools were forced to convert to Christianity and prohibited from speaking their native languages.
Chief Delmore said that the graves in the most recent discovery had been marked at one point but that those who operated the school removed the markers. “We are treating this as a crime,” he said.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press