A message from the Department of History

Statement on the former Kamloops Residential School Burial Site

15 June 2021

The History Department of the University of Calgary joins our colleagues in other post-secondary history departments in sending our condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation who have found the remains of 215 children in an unmarked mass grave at the site of the residential school in Kamloops.

As University of Calgary Elder-in-Residence Reg Crowshoe and Vice-Provost Michael Hart have put it, we must remember the children.  In our Indigenous strategy ii’ taa’poh’to’p the university community has “tasked ourselves at all levels to learn of this painful history” as we continue our parallel paths toward reconciliation and to decolonize our curriculum.

Before producing its 2015 reports, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard ample testimony from residential school survivors and the parents of missing children about the existence of such unmarked mass graves across Canada. The revelation of these 215 children’s remains has brought this fact to light for a broader Canadian public that is now, in Dr. Hart’s words, “experiencing the deep feeling Indigenous families and communities have been addressing for generations.” This moment is a stark reminder of the consequences of ignoring Indigenous knowledge.

By telling authoritative stories of the past in particular ways, the academic discipline of history has had a role to play in sustaining settler colonialism and supressing Indigenous knowledge. Members of the History Department are actively researching and teaching about how the methods and practice of academic history have suppressed the voices of Indigenous peoples and others affected by colonialism.  We are aware of the ongoing impact these difficult histories have on Indigenous families and nations and seek to understand the connections between past and present in our own teaching and learning.

In our Anti-Racism Statement (written in response to the death of George Floyd and the attack on Chief Allan Adam and his wife Freda Courtoreille), we committed to “identify and disrupt racist legacies within our professional reach,” a process that begins with listening and learning. We reconfirm that commitment here.