The community of Aq’am, near Cranbrook, has released a statement on the impact the news of the discovery of unmarked graves of children at the site of a former residential school has had on members of its community.
On May 28, 2021, it was announced that the remains of 215 Indigenous children had been found at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
“We as the community of Aq’am stand by our brothers and sisters in Kamloops and across the country, and we will continue to do the work of healing for our communities now and into the future,” said Nasukin Joe Pierre.
In Cranbrook, the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino is itself a former residential school. The resort is fully owned and operated by SEM Resort Limited Partnership, which is comprised of the five bands within the Ktunaxa Nation, including Aq’am and the Yaqan Nukiy.
“The news has brought back painful memories for our community and has elicited many questions from our citizens and the public regarding potential work in and around the St. Eugene Mission cemetery and Aq’am community,” said the Aq’am in the statement.
The band also commented on the use of ground-penetrating radar on a portion of its own cemetery in 2020.
The work was undertaken to ensure future preservation of ancestral remains, which is a pillar within their Community Strategic Plan – Ka Kniⱡwi·tiyaⱡa.
“We will conduct further work this summer and continue to build a comprehensive record that will shape our community connection and preservation,” said the Aq’am. “We ask for privacy and patience as we undertake this important work to honour our ancestors. The Aq’am community will continue to complete this important work alongside our elders and knowledge holders.”