Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) today announced that it is continuing to move forward with the preliminary investigation into the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous children at the former St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. Archival research and a review of oral histories have begun, and comprehensive ground analysis of land surrounding the site is anticipated to begin in August. Preliminary support from both the Provincial and Federal governments have been received, and WLFN is moving forward in anticipation that it will soon conclude formal agreements regarding BC and Canada’s support for the investigation.
“This is not something that we can sit back and wait on” asserts WLFN Chief, Wille Sellars. Our Council met with respected elders immediately after the Tkemlups te Secwepemc discovery. Our knowledge keepers communicated a strong desire to advance the analysis at St Joseph’s, emphasizing the necessity of careful protocol and ceremony. As caretaker of the traditional territory on which the St. Joseph’s Mission lies, WLFN will lead the search alongside a comprehensive team that includes community elders and cultural advisors, archaeological professionals, key WLFN technical staff and carefully selected professional partners. We’ve taken the time and expended the energy to craft a carefully developed plan and now it’s time to execute that plan. It’s time for our community, and those around the Country and beyond, to know the truth of Saint Joseph’s Mission.”
St. Joseph’s Mission was established in 1867 by the Catholic Oblate Oder in an area just south of the current community of Sugar Cane. In 1886, St. Joseph’s became an Indian Residential School and remained one until it was closed in 1981.
WLFN further announced that the investigation into the deaths and disappearances of the Indigenous children at St. Joseph’s Mission will be fully documented as part of the WLFN work plan:
“It’s critical that our members and others see the full story of what happened at St. Joseph’s Mission and the legacy that it has left for the families of all the children who attended that institution,” states SJM Project Manager, Whitney Spearing. With that in mind, we will be ensuring that there is a filmed record of our investigation. We’re in discussions with a documentary film producer, and anticipate that we will be in a position to release further details about that element of our program in the near future.”
An email account has been created, which is intended to be a sole point of contact for community members and non-community members who wish to offer information or make inquiries in relation to the investigation at St. Joseph’s Mission.
Those wishing to provide information relevant to the investigation at St. Joseph’s Mission should contact the following email address:
For further information on this media release, please contact:
Whitney Spearing, Manager of Title & Rights