The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the defunct Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia this spring has put a new focus on ground penetrating radar (GPR), the technology that was used to detect these unmarked graves.

Colin Grier.

Colin Grier, a Washington State University professor of anthropology, is the principal investigator for a National Science Foundation-funded effort to shed light on the capabilities of GPR to find and identify archaeological features, including graves, that are many decades or even centuries old. He hopes that ultimately his work will help bring closure to the families of the thousands of First Nation children who went missing at Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which operated between 1883-1996.

“The sad reality is that the discovery at the Kamloops School is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” Grier said. “There are hundreds more schools like this across Canada and similar institutions in the United States where it is likely other discoveries of remains will be made. Therefore, we need to develop a better understanding of what ground penetrating radar can and cannot do.”

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