Stó:lō Nation’s Mission to Unearth Truth and Healing

The Stó:lō Service Agency plays a vital role in serving the eleven communities that collectively form The Stó:lō Nation, encompassing S’olh Temexw—the traditional Stó:lō territory extending from Yale to Langley, BC.

Their St. Mary’s Mission Archival, Historical and Cemetery Research Initiative is a dedicated effort to shed light on the untold stories of Indigenous children who once attended St. Mary’s Mission and other residential schools, many of whom never returned to their families.

With a focus on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) Cemetery, this project seeks to identify, catalogue and map all burials, marked and unmarked, of Indigenous individuals in the cemetery, as well as other Catholic cemeteries in the Fraser Valley that may have graves associated with students of St. Mary’s residential school.

With a special focus on the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) Cemetery, the project’s core objective is to identify, catalog and map all burials, including both marked and unmarked graves. It also extends its search to encompass other Catholic cemeteries within the Fraser Valley that may hold the remains of students who attended St. Mary’s residential school.

With the financial support from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF), the Stó:lō Nation has enlisted the expertise of experienced archivist Carey Pallister, along with a dedicated project team. The team is reviewing archival records, ranging from historical documents and photographs to oral histories. Their goal is to create comprehensive maps and a database documenting the OMI Cemetery and other relevant cemeteries in the region.

This cemetery mapping and database initiative serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it strives to locate and identify the graves of residential school children, providing closure to their grieving families. Secondly, it seeks to rediscover the burial sites of other Indigenous individuals, whose grave markers may have been removed over time, thus preserving their memory.

One significant aspect of this project is its commitment to data sovereignty—a concept that empowers Indigenous communities to have control over their data and heritage. In a departure from past practices that often subjected Indigenous peoples to research without their consent, this project puts Indigenous organizations at the forefront and employs knowledgeable consultants who work directly with them.

The Stó:lō Nation’s efforts, supported by IRF funding, have empowered communities to embark on a healing journey, reclaim their history and provide answers to families affected by the residential school system. In supporting this initiative, we honour the memory of those affected by the residential school system and take a significant step toward truth, reconciliation, and healing.To learn more about the work of The Stó:lō Service Agency and The Stó:lō Nation, visit their website at https://www.stolonation.bc.ca/.

Archdiocese of Vancouver