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Indian Residential School System in Canada


Content Warning: This guide contains language about Residential School experiences and missing children. If you are a Residential School Survivor or family member experiencing emotional distress because of your Residential School experience, the national 24-Hour Residential School Crisis Line can provide immediate mental health, wellness and cultural support over the phone: 1-866-925-4419 

In "Canada's Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Graves" the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) described its findings about the tragic deaths of Indigenous children and burial practices at Residential Schools.¹ The TRC's Calls to Action 71 through 76 ultimately called on government agencies to actively and respectfully support investigation into Missing Children and Burial Information.² 

Indigenous community-led initiatives have used archaeological approaches, particularly remote sensing, to locate missing children and unmarked graves at former Residential School sites. As described by the Canadian Archaeological Association, "Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance and includes airborne (e.g., drone or satellite) and ground-based (e.g., ground-penetrating radar) approaches. The most common techniques used in grave detection are ground-based, in a discipline known as geophysics."³ 

The resources and research suggestions highlighted in this guide provide a starting place for community and academic research into the practice of using remote sensing technology to investigate unmarked graves at former Residential School sites.


1. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. "Canda’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials: The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Volume 4". 2015.

2. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. "Calls to Action". 2015.

3. Canadian Archaeological Association. "Remote Sensing and Grave Detection". 2021.

Before 215

While the 215 missing children from the Kamloops Indian Residential School caught the attention of many media sources and public attention, these are not the first children to be found and brought home. 

Community Initiatives & Resources

Resources listed here are intended to support Indigenous communities and organizations in research about the possibility of remote sensing projects to investigate Residential School sites in their communities for unmarked graves and missing children.

Finding Scholarly Materials in the UBC Library

The research tips featured here are suggestions for starting your research using X̱wi7x̱wa Library and the general UBC Library collection. Please contact X̱wi7x̱wa Library for advanced and specialized research support, including searching scholarly journals and databases.

Research Assistance Email:

The resources featured below may further understanding of remote sensing in Indigenous contexts and help generate research topics and search strategies, such as keywords:

IMPORTANT: the dominant structure for organizing information is from a western perspective, for this reason you may need to use outdated (sometimes offensive) terminology to find resources; do not hesitate to contact us for assistance navigating this. 

Try these basic strategies to begin your research in the UBC Library Catalogue.

  • "General (Summon)" search bar provides a general starting point to search most of UBC Library's collections including e-resources and scholarly journals and articles.
  • "Books & Media (Catalogue)" search bar will help find print books, e-books, government reports, newspapers, CDs, DVDs, maps, musical scores, microforms and other material. Under the heading "Branch Location" select X̱wi7x̱wa Library to search this collection exclusively.)

Keyword Searches

Combine keywords about your topic AND keywords relating to the concept of Indigenous identity. For example:

  • "First Nations"
  • Indigenous
  • Aboriginal
  • Aboriginal
  • Indian
  • Native
  • Native
  • Inuit
  • Métis
  • Nation name (ex. Squamish)

AND keywords related to your topic:

  • "residential school"
  • "industrial school"
  • "remote sensing"
  • "unmarked grave"
  • "unmarked graves survey"
  • geophysics
  • "geophysical survey"
  • "Indigenous archaeology"

Helpful Hints for Keyword Searches

  • Use quotation marks to search for a phrase.
    Example: "First Nations"
  • Use a question mark to truncate a term to search for words with the same stem.
    Example: Aborig? retrieves Aboriginal, Aboriginals, Aborigine, etc. 

Examples: Search Catalogue with:

Try these basic strategies to begin your research in the UBC Library Catalogue.

Subject Terms

Subject terms are tools that organize similar material together around a particular topic or subject. One or more subject terms are often assigned to physical and online material in the library, and researchers can browse material by subject terms to locate resources. 

Try browsing some of the following subject terms to gather information about remote sensing technology in Indigenous contexts and Indigenous archaeology. These are only some examples of the many subject headings that X̱wi7x̱wa Library and the general UBC Library collection uses. 

Search Catalogue > Subject begins with:

Try these basic strategies to begin your research in the UBC Library Catalogue.

Browse Call Numbers

X̱wi7x̱wa Library uses a unique Classification Scheme to organize materials in the collection. See call numbers beginning with ER for materials on residential schools, and BQ for materials on Indigenous archaeology. Come by X̱wi7x̱wa to browse the shelves or search our online catalogue.