WARNING: The following story contains details some readers may find disturbing.

The Penelakut First Nation near Chemainus is reaching out to other First Nations in the region to join it in raising awareness of the children who were sent to the Kuper Island residential school, but never returned home.

The First Nation says a search of the island has revealed 160, or more, unmarked and undocumented graves.

At this time, the Penelakut First Nation has not confirmed the results of its investigation of the undocumented grave sites and has yet to formally reveal details on exactly where, or how many have been found on Penelakut Island.

It plans to invite other First Nations in the region to join in an awareness march in Chemainus on August 2, 2021, and will hold two healing sessions.

The first of the sessions will be on July 28, 2021 followed by the second on August 4, 2021.

In the invitation, the Penelakut say “many of our brothers and sisters from other communities attended the Kuper Island Industrial School. We also recognize with a tremendous amount of grief and loss, that too many did not return home.”

The First Nation goes on to say, “we are at a point in time where we must face the trauma because of these acts of genocide.”

The Kuper Island Industrial Residential School earned the nickname of Canada’s Alcatraz after it opened in 1889 because of its island location.

The number of Indigenous student deaths officially recorded at the Kuper Island Industrial School currently stands at just over 200.

In Kamloops in May, a burial site of 215 children in an unmarked mass grave was discovered on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

In June, 751 graves without headstones were discovered in a cemetery at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her Residential school experience or for those affected by these reports. The 24-hour crisis line is available at 1-866-925-4419.