VANCOUVER -- The chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation on Wednesday expressed her “deepest gratitude” for the outpouring of support the nation has received from across the country and around the world.

Chief Rosanne Casimir, who held a news conference to provide an update less than three weeks after the discovery of the probable graves of 215 children on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, said there had been a “whirlwind of activity” as communities begin to grieve.

“We thank you for your condolences, your support, donations, and especially for your…outpouring of love,” she said. “We stand strong because of you.”

The top doctor for the First Nations Health Authority, who also spoke at the news conference, urged those impacted both directly and indirectly by the discovery of what she called “the removal of a (bandage) from a septic wound” to slow down.

“We’ve all felt a need to respond to the hurt, to the anger, and the deep need to be with people to share our pain and express our emotions,” Dr. Shannon McDonald said.

“Please take the time to heal and reflect, and to pace yourself for the journey ahead and look after each other."

Both Casimir and McDonald indicated that while members of the public were still welcome to visit the memorial in Kamloops, they cautioned against unnecessary travel and gatherings based on the fact the community is just now beginning to receive its second doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need to be safe and stay local,” McDonald said.

Casimir also briefly addressed the final report the nation expects to make public after they receive it from the organization or company undertaking the survey work near the school using ground-penetrating radar.

“Given its significance, you can understand that there are a number of steps and due diligence that’s needed,” Casimir said.

“This is only the beginning and we want you to be a part of this journey with us,” she added.

According to the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, there are over 30 First Nations communities whose children were forcibly sent to Kamloops from 1890 to 1978.

The National Student Memorial, part of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, identified 51 children who died at the Kamloops school.

The chief has indicated she believes these 215 children to be in addition to those 51.