Kuper Island is an eight-part podcast series that shares the stories of four Indigenous children who attended the former Kuper Island Indian Residential School. Three survivors share their life experiences and the abuses they encountered while in residential school.
Award-winning investigative reporter Duncan McCue uncovers police investigations, confronts the abusers and sees a community trying to heal.
McCue goes to Penelakut First Nation in British Columbia and meets up with two brothers, James and Tony Charlie. They tour the community and go to the former site of Kuper Island Indian Residential School. The brothers detail their accounts of various waves of abuse from their teachers and the atrocities they witnessed, and talk about Richard Thomas, who the residential school reported took his own life.
Belvie Brebber, sister of the late Richard Thomas, shares her story of facing fear and sexual violence. Brebber also talks about a phone call that scarred the family forever and explains why she never believed the school’s report that determined that her brother died from suicide.
McCue’s team pieced together a portrait of Richard Thomas through his writings and the coroner’s report, which resulted in them investigating more because the information didn’t add up. The team tracked down former staff from Kuper Island Residential School who witnessed the cruel treatment of Indigenous children and tried to contact a known abuser at the school who is still alive.
The host then talks to members of the community, who share the long-term impacts on families caused by the abuses suffered while attending the residential school. The investigation then leads to Donnie Sampson, the last person who saw Richard Thomas before his death.
She details disturbing accounts of the day Richard Thomas died and the day when the school took the children to see the body. Finally McCue returns to Brebber with the team’s report, which makes her decide to take action.
Kuper Island tells stories of residential school survivors and their traumas while being kept at the Kuper Island Residential School but highlights what a community is doing to heal emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
The host and the team of Kuper Island have done extensive research to find answers to the death of Richard Thomas and have done so with sensitivity and respect for the family and community.