(AP) — Indigenous leaders in Canada
said Thursday that investigators discovered 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school for Indigenous children
, following the discovery of 215 at another school earlier this month.
“This was a crime
against humanity, an assault
on First Nations
,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of Saskatchewan’s Federation of Sovereign Indigenous First Nations, who expects more graves to be discovered on residential school grounds across Canada.
“We will not stop until all of the bodies have been found.”
The bodies were discovered near the Cowessess First Nation, about 85 miles east of Regina, Saskatchewan's capital, at the Marieval Indian Residential School, which operated from 1899 to 1997.
The graves were once marked, according to Cowessess Chief Cadmusn Delmore, but the markers were removed by the Roman Catholic Church
, which ran the school.
“The Pope must apologize for what occurred,” he stated.
is the first step in the healing process.”
The remains of 215 children, some as young as three years old, were discovered buried last month near Kamloops, British
Columbia, on the site of what was once Canada's largest Indigenous residential school.
Following the discovery, Pope Francis
expressed his sadness and urged religious and political leaders to shed light on "this sad affair," but he did not offer the apology sought by First Nations and Canada's prime minister.
From the 19th century to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools
, the majority of which were run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, as part of an assimilation campaign into Canadian society.
The Canadian government has admitted that physical
and sexual abuse
was common in schools, with students being beaten for speaking in their native tongues.