Williams Lake First Nation sets date to release findings of St. Joseph’s Mission investigation

The Williams Lake Tribune [Williams Lake, CA]

January 6, 2022

By Tribune staff

WARNING: This story contains details some readers may find distressing.

Chief and council of the Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) have set a date of Jan. 25 to publically release the preliminary geophysical results from the first phase of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School investigation.

WLFN postponed the previously scheduled release of the results Dec. 7 in order to give adequate time for neighboring First Nation communities to put in place the necessary health and wellness supports, WLFN noted in a news release issued Jan. 6.

“This has been an extremely challenging time for WLFN and other First Nations who were affected by the facility at St. Joseph’s,” stated WLFN Chief Willie Sellars. “We have out of necessity in the course of our investigation opened old wounds and asked people to recount some terrible and harrowing stories. But the information provided has helped shape our investigation and I’m thankful to make progress on this first phase of our work.”

Prior to releasing the geophysical investigation results to the public, WLFN will be conducting a meeting with the chiefs of the communities directly affected by the operations at St. Joseph’s Mission. This meeting will take place on the morning of Jan. 25 and will provide the chiefs with an opportunity to ask questions of the technical experts involved in the first phase of investigations. This session is closed to the media and to the public, and attendance is by invitation only.

In the afternoon of Jan. 25, a formal press conference will be held to announce the preliminary results of the geophysical investigation.

“We know that everyone is eager to receive these results,” noted Sellars. “But we’re asking that everyone be patient and respectful of the process. Our key concern is the mental health and welfare of the survivors of St. Joseph’s, and that of their families. We’re trying to conduct this process in as orderly a fashion as possible.”

WLFN set out to investigate the grounds of the notorious former residential school near Williams Lake following the May 27, 2021 announcement by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation that the remains of 215 children were found buried at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The findings shocked the nation and led to several similiar investigations of residential sites across the country.