Allegations of hundreds of graves at residential schools deserve more scrutiny and a physical dig, says retired University of Calgary political science professor Tom Flanagan..Initial findings by ground-penetrating radar last year suggested 215 bodies at a residential school in Kamloops. Flanagan said only 51 deaths of Kamloops students have been verified. Their death certificates are public and tuberculosis was a common cause..“The school is taking in hundreds of kids from a lot of places. And in the early years until about the late 40s, there was no real effective treatment for tuberculosis except rest, that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But the discovery of streptomycin would largely put an end to TB. But up until the late 40s, early 50s, TB was rampant among Indian people, both children and adults,” Flanagan said in an interview..A CBC Fifth Estate episode in January included interviews with former students at the Kamloops school. One person claimed he could see children hung by ropes at a barn. Another claimed students were buried at the orchard in holes dug by children in the dead of night..Flanagan wonders how that could have happened..“It’s inconceivable to me that this was a Catholic institution, that the nuns and priests who were there would be treating bodies in this way. They regarded as part of the sacraments of the church, to give extreme unction on the last sacraments and then … a Catholic burial and consecrated ground in a Catholic cemetery,” Flanagan said..“When the story first came out, there was a tooth had been found and a child’s rib. Well, these bones hadn’t been found by archaeological experts, they had been picked up by tourists years ago. And actually, the tooth has now been determined to be nonhuman. And I don’t think there’s been any independent analysis of the rib.”.Another 93 potential grave sites were announced at the former school site at Williams Lake, B.C., on January 25. Neither analysis has been allowed independent analysis and Flanagan believes the media and much of the public have assumed the worst in the meantime..He says the emotional response was a major factor in January’s $40 billion federal settlement for cases where child welfare agencies took indigenous children from indigenous families..“Are there 215 bodies in the orchard? We won’t know until somebody does some digging. Nothing has been dug up yet. The ground penetrating radar is not conclusive. It just shows that the ground has been disturbed and you have to check it with an excavation to know what’s there,” Flanagan said..“They’ve got to be done with independent supervision, knowledgeable people who don’t have a political axe to grind. People who are not simply working for the First Nation because there’s too much room for manipulation of findings unless there’s independent eyes there,” Flanagan said..Flanagan said the area was used by the indigenous for centuries and even if bodies are found, they could be older than the residential schools themselves. He believes that a thorough independent investigation is necessary — “maybe even by the RCMP because they keep saying it’s a crime scene.” What concerns him is aspects of the approach taken since last spring could continue even if public pressure succeeds in forcing an excavation..“You don’t release scientific results in a press conference, but suppress all the data. That is not an acceptable way to conduct science that has a public dimension to it. So that’s a very bad sign about what might happen,” Flanagan said..“Now, the same thing could happen with an excavation project. Nobody’s going to dig up 215 graves all at once… Will they say, ‘Well, we’ve had an interesting first phase, but we’re not going to release our results until the rest of them (are done)’? So, this could go on for years. The results might never come out.”.Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based contributor to Western Standard.