Snuneymuxw First Nation receives $77,000 to search grounds of former hospital

The Snuneymuxw First Nation is receiving $77,000 to support their search for unmarked graves near the grounds of the former Nanaimo Indian Hospital.

Snuneymuxw Chief Michael Wyse said the funds will support the nation in its efforts to search for the remains of people who were forced the attend the hospital.

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“Our people carry the enormous emotional, physical and spiritual injury and harm of residential schools and Indian hospitals. Some of our people did not survive and were left behind in unmarked graves in our territory,” he said in a statement.

The money comes from a fundraiser started by Steve Sxwithultxw, a survivor of the Kuper Island Residential School, carver Tom LaFortune and cultural safety educator Michele Mundy. Together, the trio raised more than $157,000 from donors across North America.

The Nanaimo Indian Hospital, one of three facilities of its kind in B.C., operated from 1946 to 1967; the others are in Sardis and Prince Rupert. The institutions were established to segregate Indigenous patients, “primarily to allay white settler fears associated with the communicability of tuberculosis,” according to the In Plain Sight report on systemic racism in B.C. health care released last fall.

Patients were subjected to medical experimentation, primarily to aid in the advancement of treatments for the settler population, the report said.

They were often legally compelled to stay in the institutions for years, and survivors have recounted physical and sexual abuse.

The Find Our Lost Children fundraiser was started in response to the discovery in May of what is believed to be about 200 gravesites near the former Kamloops residential school. The money raised came from thousands of donors across North America, Sxwithul’txw said. In July, the Ahousaht First Nation received $75,000 to to support its efforts to search two former residential school sites.

The funds will be presented to the nation’s chief and council today.

In July, the provincial government announced funding of up to $475,000 for each former residential school and hospital site in July.

Snuneymuxw First Nation said at the time it intended to apply for funding to search the former hospital grounds.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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