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“In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.”

You have probably heard the shocking story, reported worldwide, of the discovery of mass graves in Canada containing the bodies of what were then called Indian and are now called First Nations children sent to residential schools.

What you heard was exactly that, a story. It is not true.

Canada’s National Post carries an important and well-researched article by Terry Glavin: “The year of the graves: How the world’s media got it wrong on residential school graves”.

As for the most recent uproars: not a single mass grave was discovered in Canada last year. The several sites of unmarked graves that captured international headlines were either already-known cemeteries, or they remain sites of speculation even now, unverified as genuine grave sites. Not a single child among the 3,201 children on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 registry of residential school deaths was located in any of these places. In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.

Mr Gavin rightly acknowledges that the treatment of these children was shameful. It was denounced as such a full century ago:

…it was exactly 100 years ago this year that Peter Henderson Bryce, the former medical inspector for the Department of Indian Affairs, published a shocking account of the federal government’s indifference to deaths from infectious diseases and heartless neglect in the Indian residential schools. The 24-page booklet was titled, “The Story of a National Crime: Being an Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada; The Wards of The Nation, Our Allies in the Revolutionary War, Our Brothers-in-Arms in the Great War.”

The passage of a century has added other charges to the heartless neglect that Peter Henderson Bryce denounced. Beatings and sexual abuse were common at these schools, most of which were run on behalf of the government by the Catholic church. Their openly-stated purpose, at least at first, was to strip away the children’s native languages and cultures. While not every child’s experience was bad, the policy of taking children away from their parents en masse to be compulsorily educated in the majority culture was a monstrous act of repression.

The historical facts were not dramatic enough for the media. Perhaps not maliciously, but certainly recklessly, they promoted a different story, a new story:

The “discovery” of unmarked graves at the Marieval cemetery was one of the most dramatic front-page sensations that circled the world last summer. The June 24 headline in the Washington Post was typical: Hundreds of Graves Found at Former Residential School for Indigenous Children in Canada. The number of graves reportedly discovered: 751.

Except that’s not what happened.

The Cowessess people noted from the outset that they didn’t discover any graves; the crosses and headstones had gone missing under disputed circumstances decades earlier, and ground-penetrating radar had been brought in to enumerate and pinpoint the location of each burial. Cowesses Chief Cadmus Delorme told CBC News: “This is a Roman Catholic grave site. It’s not a residential school grave site.”

The predictable result of the sensationalist reporting of this and other grave sites was a wave of church burnings and vandalism that in any other context would have been called “hate crimes” but in Canada are known as “protests”. (Official Canadian terminology inverts the previous meanings of these two terms – peaceful protests for unapproved causes are deemed to be hate crimes and suppressed by force, as the disabled Indigenous woman trampled by police horses at the truckers’ Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa could tell you.) I know from reading the comments to many of these news stories that an awful lot of people got the impression that the children buried in these graveyards were murdered. That might simply be because many people are happy to comment on newspaper stories they have not read past the headline, or it might be that some reporters do not work very hard to dispel misunderstandings that will get them more clicks, or it might be due to the existence of a full-blown conspiracy theory to that effect. Mr Glavin links to this piece by Frances Widdowson that describes how Kevin Annett, a defrocked United Church Minister,

…has been disseminating the stories of Combes and others about the residential schools for about 25 years. One of these stories, recounted by Annett, claimed that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip took a group of students from the Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) on a picnic and then abducted them. Thorough fact-checking has shown that the Royals did not even travel to Kamloops in 1964.

While the Queen Elizabeth abduction story probably would be regarded with skepticism by most, many similar improbable accounts of “murders” and “missing children” are being repeated by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc “Knowledge Keepers” and are now accepted as “truth.” Knowledge Keepers, after all, cannot be questioned, because to do so would be perceived as “disrespectful.” This raises questions about the extent to which the “oral tellings” of the Knowledge Keepers, which have been provided as evidence for the existence of “secret burials” at KIRS, have been influenced by the lurid stories circulating over the past 25 years. These stories were given additional momentum in May 2021 and are now firmly ensconced within the Canadian consciousness.

19 comments to “In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.”

  • Joh

    The bbc reports:-

    Mass grave of 215 children found in Canada
    Canada mourns as remains of 215 children found at residential school.

    The Washington Post reports (as per Natalie’s article):-

    The June 24 headline in the Washington Post was typical: Hundreds of Graves Found at Former Residential School for Indigenous Children in Canada. The number of graves reportedly discovered: 751.

    Two very precise figures from two world-renowned news institutions. Since the correct figure was zero the bbc wins by default of being less inaccurate.

  • Sam Duncan

    It reminds me of the “satanic abuse” scare in Britain back in the ’90s. Quite a lot does these days, actually. But sure, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, you go ahead and “amplify” these “trusted sources”. I’ll be somewhere else.

  • Fraser Orr

    I am curious as to what people think should have been done with respect to the First Nation peoples. Of course to even talk of them as a homogeneous group is ridiculous. To think that the Cherokee in South Eastern USA — a pretty sophisticated people — were anything like the Inuit tribes in northern Canada or the Comanche — who were effectively the OG MS 13 gang-o-sadistic-murderous-thugs is ridiculous. And the ideas that we have of this horse riding, rifle wielding peoples belies the fact that horses and rifles were introduced by the Europeans, and were, in effect, pollution of their original culture, something we seem to consider a terrible sin. However, I think some generalities can be made. The First Nations generally didn’t even have metal working skills for the most part, never mind written language, they were effectively a stone age people. (I am not including in this list the meso American nations who were considerably more sophisticated, apart from the whole rip-out-your-beating-heart thing.)

    What are we to do if we were to encounter a stone age tribe of people? Should put a fence around them and preserve them like a museum specimen? That might be OK for artifacts, but they are people. They include children being left in a situation where childhood mortality is huge, childbirth morality is huge, where they receive no education, often inadequate nutrition, my God, if they have gender dysphoria they can’t even get hormone treatment.

    Which isn’t at all to defend some of the terrible things that were done to the First Nations by European settlers, but really, is the preservation of a culture more important that ensuring individual people have access to modern technology such as medical care, quality nutrition, education and values and belief systems that allow them to flourish and grow? Like I say, they are people, children, not museum specimens.

  • TimRules!

    As a Canadian, watching these “discoveries” unfold in real time is just jaw-dropping. Perhaps the most galling aspect is the total refusal excavate these (supposed) unmarked graves confirm preliminary findings, which generally consist of soil density anomalies: we are just expected to accept the wokerati wet dream that a genocide occurred.

    These residential schools were around until the end of the 20th Century: if homicides did occur, it is a near-certainty that some of the perpetrators are still alive and walking free!

    Draw your own conclusions.

  • Sigivald

    I’ve been to Kamloops, recently(ish).

    There is no way Royals would have wanted to visit it in the mid-60s.

    Hell, I don’t want to visit it now, and I know people who live there.

    (Admittedly, I don’t have QE2’s travel budget, and I’m an American.)

  • The Jannie

    WOT? MSM amplified untruths and baseless rumours? Tell me t’ain’t true!

  • Fraser Orr (May 27, 2022 at 3:00 pm) asks a very sensible question: what should – what could – the Canadian government have done, or not done, a century ago that would either propitiate the woke of today or be to the greater benefit of the indigenes at the time?

    My immediate thought is of the reported lack of choice on the part of the indigenous parents (and, one assumes, their children). The Canadian government could have saved itself money (through paying for the schooling of fewer), and incidentally provided some obstacles and counteraction to such of the reported abuses as actually occurred, by requiring themselves and/or the schools to spend more effort persuading attendance and less compelling it. However:

    – Firstly, that wouldn’t save them from the wrath of the woke today; as silence is violence so the failure to compel (for the kids own good, of course) would instead be the crime of western civilisation, since everyone knows that compulsory government programmes billed as for the good of their recipients are never abused.

    – Secondly, few thought compulsory attendance laws were wrong for any of Canada’s citizens back then. Today, it’s the people who hate school voucher plans (because they let parents resist having their children’s native culture stripped away by a woke educational establishment) who most eagerly pretend those empty graves are full. It’s not for the woke to challenge the sincerity with which this old education programme was sold as ‘for their own good’ – though we may. And, of course, how often would (could ?) being not taught to read English, not taught arithmetic for cash transactions, not informed of how their country outside their tribe now operated, have been more than merely a one generation delay?

    – Thirdly, a degree of corporal punishment of children was normal at the time. If it needed “the passage of a century” to add that charge to the “the heartless neglect” stated in the sympathetic report of the time, maybe those kids were getting nothing that English parents of their day did not pay fees to English schools for their sons to receive. The utterly casual acceptance of corporal punishment in Tom Sawyer and in the latter part of Huckleberry Finn (earlier, at the hands of Huck’s father, it is abusive and one can discuss Twain’s quiet handling of it in terms of his satiric intent) is informative.

    – Fourthly, by contrast, the catholic church very well knew that sexual abuse was a sin – which of course, is far from inconsistent with its happening. The woke educational establishment and compliant press today have over-reported church cases and hidden their far more numerous own to an extraordinary degree in general, so again I’d welcome information from earlier. But in a vulnerable, compelled population (from a clashing culture – tales I’ve read of the Inuit that are friendly to them do not at all suggest Victorian sexual mores), ‘heartless neglect’ could lead to ignoring other things.

    – Fifthly, concentrating children from isolated tribes was always going to cause epidemics. Not concentrating them ensured they would meet the same old-continent diseases later. In the Boer war, the British army rounded up Boer families and discovered that concentrating people who were living in isolation leads to epidemics even in people accustomed to Africa’s disease-ridden clime. After the penny dropped – helped by much hostile and often exaggerated newspaper coverage – the military camp governors (usually second rate soldiers – the keen were at the front) were replaced with Milner’s vigorous civilian control, which turned the situation around. I suspect the Inuit were far more vulnerable than a population who’d been living in South Africa since the 1600s, and I conjecture the reality behind the phrase “heartless neglect” was that no Milner-equivalent was sent in to do at least what the medicine and organisation of the time could do.

    So what instead could/should have been done? Less compulsion (especially as regards the how of achieving the desired knowledge), and a bit more foresight about the foreseeable epidemics.

    Of course, the government could always have done nothing at all – have the mounties provide law and order to the Inuit and otherwise let whatever happened happen. But I doubt that was politically possible even then, and would certainly not propitiate the woke now.

  • bobby b

    Canada is as truly lost as Australia. The past several years of woke drama has been supported and cheered on by most Canadians. Trudeau is in office until October of 2025, and remains popular. They only fairly recently took their government flags off of half-staff in memoriam of all of those poor innocent murdered children who never existed.

    Even the Moosehead tastes flat now.

  • Fraser Orr

    Niall Kilmartin
    My immediate thought is of the reported lack of choice on the part of the indigenous parents

    I think this is one of the more interesting points here. As a libertarian my inclination is to leave them alone, but there are a couple of barriers to this.

    1. Although we grant parents great latitude with their children we do not grant them unlimited latitude. This is true irrespective of the color of their skin, or the tribe to which they ascribe themselves. We do not, for example, allow parents to fail to provide adequate medical care to their children, or fail to provide them with education. It is part of the bargain of parenting — you may take over the rights of children due to their inability to make sound choices, but in doing so you also take on the responsibility of making choices in their best interests. Leaving children in a situation where their most basic needs are neglected is not something that even a strident libertarian like me would allow.

    2. To cohabit with the First Nations, as with cohabiting with anyone, does require an agreement on the basic ideas of law, such as property, contracts, self ownership and so forth. However, many of the First Nation tribes had legal systems quite at odds with Western values, and until there was a reconciliation on this it is not possible to cohabit without conflict. Which isn’t to say that they cannot determine a lot of their laws themselves, I am, after all, a passionate advocate of federalism, rather it is the fact that all law has an underlying set of assumptions that are necessary for compatibility.

    These are both considerable challenges.

    For your interest you might find David Friedman’s book interesting: “Legal Systems Very Different than Our Own” , which has a discussion on the legal system of some of the Plains Tribes. This is the version on the web, but I’d definitely encourage anyone interested to buy the book. Friedman is regularly a fascinating and thought provoking read.

  • bobby b

    What the Canadian government could have done differently centers on dropping the idea of the indigenous people being child-like, mentally undeveloped, and civilizationally lacking, and so in dire need of our godlike protection and of our better ideas of society.

    But once they started along that path, there was no middle ground. Removing the kids from the influence of their own culture was seen as the only way to end the generations of ignorance and waste. This had a strong basis – the standard of living of FN people was appallingly poor compared to the European one, even before the Europeans arrived.

    Realistically, the FN cultures – like the American Indian cultures – were poorly equipped to co-exist with the property-rights-oriented, land-hungry (and well-armed) Europeans who were moving in and taking over. They were doomed from the first interactions.

    And so, the real answer is, there was nothing that could have been done that would have resulted, today, in a healthy FN culture in Canada aside from tossing them in and letting them learn to swim. Today’s woke will settle for nothing short of, we never should have came here. There’s no middle ground.

  • JJM

    “[M]ost of which were run on behalf of the government by the Catholic church.”

    Er, roughly half were operated by Protestant churches, to wit, the Anglican Church, Methodists, Presbyterians and later, the United Church.

  • […] “In none of these places were any human remains unearthed.” There are many claiming victimhood over these stories. […]

  • Fraser:

    I like to say that the First Nations are the peoples who ethnically cleansed the Zeroth Nations to points further south.

  • Boris Karpa

    This is an absurd deflection – although it is wholly the fault of incompetent reporters.

    If the researchers located a graveyard – even a previously known one – where children were buried after dying from mistreatment in a school’s care – then this does attract our attention to a truly awful act of oppression (like the article admits), even if it is not an OMG SCRET MASS GRAVE OF MURDERED CHILDREN.

  • I like to say that the First Nations are the peoples who ethnically cleansed the Zeroth Nations to points further south. (Ted S., Catskill Mtns, NY, USA, May 28, 2022 at 11:28 pm)

    As regards northern Canada, I think it is the reverse. The warmer and more fertile lands to the south were claimed by the more aggressive tribes, forcing northward the defeated (who may have been the less violent – one observes a statistical tendency towards more horrific brutality in more southern tribes). Decades ago, I visited the Canadian ‘Martyrs memorial’ which records when the Iroquois (‘the killer people’) pushed the Hurons northwards, ethnically cleansing a couple of Jesuit missionaries in the process.

  • many of the First Nation tribes had legal systems quite at odds with Western values (Fraser Orr, May 27, 2022 at 10:37 pm)

    Slavery, cannibalism, torture – yes, there was quite a lot to deal with even before you get to such secondary issues as e.g. providing some fragment of Victorian-era ‘feminist’ legal rights to the squaws. The alliance between the Cherokees and the Confederacy was not just based on common opposition to the Federal government; some alliance of values, especially over slavery, was involved.

    The British empire’s approach to the same situation in its African colonies and elsewhere was to allow native law, subject to its rules being honestly applied, except when English law superseded it. For example, a native court could judge a case of stealing, but not of a runaway slave’s ‘stealing’ himself, since English law did not recognise slavery.

    (In theory, that is. An unusually frank African-born BBC reporter described how her grandfather once gained great respect in his tribe by managing to overawe the British authorities into letting him keep his slaves. An imperial administrator, learning her grandfather had evaded the Empire’s edict to free all slaves in the territory, took charge of his slaves with a view to freeing them after a court case against him, but he had been a usefully supportive chief to the Empire in other ways, so managed to get the case dropped and his slaves returned to his control. She said this event greatly raised the esteem in which he was held by local Africans – except perhaps those slaves.)

    This merely-on-exception replacing of local legal custom was a major difference between the British approach and the French. The latter tended to export municipal French law unqualified into their colonies, simply replacing whatever had been there before. (IIRC, it could sometimes result in colonies Britain conquered from France, e.g. Caribbean islands, being under subordinated French law.) British administrators in Africa and the far east were critical of the French ‘wholesale replacement’ approach, and also claimed it provoked native hostility and rebellion much more, and more quickly, than the British way did.

    In North America, the English-speaking colonial authorities began by treating the tribes as wholly independent entities from whom they bought title to specific areas. Typically, the colonies sought to have title under both English law, via some Royal grant, and from some tribe with some prior claim to the territory, via some combination of purchase, alliance and trade deal, with the local tribe continuing in the area on unsold land or, in routine hunter-gatherer manner, moving to new hunting grounds (now typically in a westwards direction). As time passed, an assumption of legal suzerainty as regards the old-world was added: the Empire or Federal government asserted control of foreign policy with European nations, while still recognising a tribe’s autonomy internally and as regards its dealings with other tribes. Finally, as English-speaking ideas slowly changed from thinking the ‘American desert’ would always be their frontier to realising they would reach the continent’s western and northern boundaries, things evolved into an often complex legal situation whereby treaties made under these earlier assumptions were (sometimes clunkily) reconciled with the late assumption of overall authority over the whole continent.

  • Y. Knott

    Mass grave of 215 children found in Canada As a citizen and resident of this poor, benighted country, I pass-on four bits of apocrypha ( – apocrypha because I don’t have the references immediately to-hand, and I couldn’t be bothered to look ’em up) concerning the whole “mass graves of Indian children” nonsense:

    1) The tribes themselves asked for the residential schools – I kid you not. They were eager to get their children educated in a couple bountiful western practises – in particular agriculture, because the tribes had difficulty feeding themselves and lived a nomadic lifestyle because they constantly depleted their location’s meager foodstuffs and moved-on or starved;

    2) As noted above, abuse and childhood death were very much a part of life then, particularly before widespread availability of supermarkets, refrigeration and antibiotics – the ones who made-it to adulthood usually didn’t last very long;

    3) Yeah, “unmarked graves” – back then crosses were made of wood, and eventually rotted out of the ground; and a largely nomadic culture likely won’t be in that area to replace them, and will forget where they should be. And as an illustration of the uncertainty involved, at least one of the “mass grave sites” was a former apple orchard, which would look a lot like an unmarked cemetery to ground penetrating radar.

    4) The utter wail-fest on the subject is most incongruous because our current government was the government then too, and happily ignored the matter for decades. And as with everything else (every? other?) government does, the hypocrisy on the matter sickens me. Our Prime Minister (whom I don’t refer-to by name anymore) demonstrated this “to the manor born”. He nominated an annual national holiday, 30 September, as a ‘day of reconciliation’ – and then on the day, rather than leading the country in mourning this tragedy, he hopped a government jet, flew all the way across the country ( – which is a long way, in Canada – ) and spent the day surfing.

  • As of today (I don’t know how long this amusing coincidence of headlines will persist), Canada’s fake ‘Indigenous’ professor resigns is the main headline on the linked page from The College Fix (h/t instapundit), whose top headline on its ‘most popular’ sidebar is College requires students, faculty to agree they’ve benefited from white privilege.

    As she has finally resigned, presumably no-one will be requiring ex-Professor Bourassa to confess that she too benefitted from white privilege. One feels she did as much as Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal and many another to avoid, uh, ‘benefitting’ from her ‘toxic’ whiteness.

    The relevance to this post is what she was professor of.

    Later that year, Bourassa went on “indefinite leave without pay” from her role as scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, CIHR President Michael Strong told the Independent.

    That she was ever appointed to it suggests to me that examples of Canadian authorities’ neglecting indigenous health in the pursuit of other agendas can be found more recently than a century ago.

  • Exasperated

    There have been quite a few preposterous stories on this topic. Part of widespread credulity is due to ignorance and lack of context.
    Before the advent of potable water, antibiotics, electricity, and exponentially safer working conditions, pretty much everyone lived with suffering, grief, pain, and loss. There are thousands of cemeteries lost to nature and not just in North America. My sister used to say that if you were born before 1900, you had a 50/50 chance of being an orphan before you were 5, not to mention all those children who died at birth or shortly after. I don’t know where she got this figure, and I’m not going to defend it except to say, as a genealogist, I have had to steel myself to go through cemetery lists, frequently encountering the deaths of several children from the same family, sometimes along with a parent, or the deaths of mothers and children in childbirth. Have we forgotten the orphanages, the Orphan Trains, the workhouses? I’m skeptical that Canada was exceptional.