Indigenous leaders in Canada say they are horrified—but not surprised—by the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Saskatchewan. The Cowessess First Nation says the discovery, made weeks after the remains of 215 children were found at a former school for Indigenous children in British Columbia, is the "most significantly substantial to date in Canada," the BBC reports. The Marieval Residential Indian School, operated by the Catholic Church, was one of numerous schools that housed Indigenous children taken from their families under a policy of forced assimilation. It operated from 1899 to 1997. Abuse and neglect were common, and many children—more than 10,000 of around 150,000 taken from their families, by some estimates—never returned home.
Cowessess leaders say ground-penetrating radar was used to find unmarked graves at the site, which also contains some marked graves. Barry Kennedy, a survivor of the Marieval school, tells the CBC that he remembers one friend who was dragged off screaming and was never seen again. He believes the latest disturbing find is just the tip of the iceberg. Indigenous leaders say their accounts of thousands of children disappearing from the schools—with parents given vague explanations at best—were long treated with skepticism. "There’s no denying this: All of the stories told by our survivors are true,” says Bobby Cameron, chief of Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, per the New York Times. "This is what the Catholic Church in Canada and the government of Canada of the day forced on our children." (Two Catholic churches on Indigenous land burned to the ground this week.)