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A Mark, a Body, a Trace, a Grave

Testimony of Irene Favel, 75, attended the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School from 1941-1949[1]

I had a very very rough life
I was mistreated in every way
There was a young girl
She was seven year old
She was pregnant
And what they did
She had her baby
Yet they took the baby
Wrapped it up in nice pink outfit
Took it downstairs
I was in the kitchen with the nuns
Where [we’re?] cooking super
They took the baby into the
What do you call that
Where they make a fire and all that
To heat up the school
[Another voice calls: Furnace room]
They threw that little baby in there
And burned it alive
All you could hear was

*Short, sharp, truncated breath, somewhere between a hiccup and a cry that is instantly cut-off*

That was it
You could smell the them
You know
The flesh cooking
It’s a big mistake when people say we’re treated good
No way
There’s a lot of things that happened in those boarding schools

PostScript: After May 27, 2021, when an announcement was made that an unmarked mass grave of 215 Indigenous children was found at the Kamloops Indian Residential school, action was taken on decades-old survivor testimonies about unmarked graves at the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School. On June 1, 2021, it was reported that the bodies of 35 children were found in unmarked graves at the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School. We do not how many babies were thrown into the school furnace. According to the Eurocentric standards of proof deployed by Canadian historians, that kind of grave leaves no mark. Is an empty hole a grave? An empty room? An empty furnace? If there is no trace of the body, how can it be found? If it cannot be found, how can it be counted? If it cannot be counted, how can it count?

Irene Favel is the mark. Her people are the body. Her word is the trace. Canada is the grave. And in just one month, 1,148 dead Indigenous children have been found in unmarked graves at Indian Residential School locations across Canadian-occupied territories. According to The Economist, this confirms “what many indigenous [sic] groups have long suspected.”[2] But this is not true. It confirms what many Indigenous groups have long known. And it also confirms what Indigenous groups have long reported to us, Canadians, occupiers, killers, who have always walked away with a smirk or perhaps even a tear, saying, with all of our Eurocentric certainty and relief:

“Maybe. But you can’t prove that.”

Irene Favel died on January 21, 2021, four months prior to the report about the mass grave at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. She was 8 years old when she arrived at the Muskowekwan Indian Residential School. She lived there until she was 16. But that doesn’t mean she ever left it. Or, rather, that it ever left her. Canada, after all, is simply the Indian Residential School system writ large. Irene was 87 years old when she died. Canada just turned 152.

[1] See:

[2] See:

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