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Six Nations asks Ottawa for $10M to investigate grounds of former Mohawk Institute

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Mark Hill, elected chief of Six Nations of the Grand River, is asking for $10 million from the federal government to investigate the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute residential school in Brantford.

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Hill is also calling on Premier Doug Ford and other Ontario officials for a full investigation into the deaths of all missing children at residential school sites, including the former Mohawk Institute. Letters were sent by Hill on Friday to Ford, Attorney General Doug Downey, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique and chief coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer.

In a separate letter to federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller and federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, Hill wants Ottawa to allocate to Six Nations more than one-third of the $27 million promised to communities to locate and memorialize children who died at residential schools.

Hill  is calling for a full investigation on the grounds that now includes the Woodland Cultural Centre and on all related grounds and sites.

“The Mohawk Institute burned down twice, changed locations, and was associated with substantial farm lands on which the children were made to endure hard labour,” Hill said in his letter to Miller and Bennett. “In recent decades, nearby developments have also encroached upon the related properties, which raises additional concerns about the feasibility of locating certain possible burial sites of our children who went missing so long ago.

“Our community still preserves the knowledge that there are missing children, and we will not rest until they have all been found.”

Hill earlier sent to a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for federal help.

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In 2019, the government allocated $33.8 million toward projects aiming to research the children who died at residential schools. The money went toward an online register of the dead, as well a project to document known cemeteries.

Last week, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops, B.C., Bennett opened the remaining $27 million to Indigenous communities to fund searches at former residential school sites. In Kamloops, ground penetrating radar showed the remains of the children.

The Mohawk Institute was the oldest and longest-running residential school in Canada, operating for 142 years from 1828 to 1970. Many former students have described suffering physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the school. The poor quality of food served to students led to the school’s nickname, The Mush Hole.

In his letter, Hill said relevant provincial authorities must do their part, but federal support is needed first.

He noted that most of the children who went to the Mohawk Institute were from Six Nations.

“Sadly, some of them did not survive, and, to this day, there are whispers in the community about where our lost children were buried,” he said.

“The children of Six Nations must be found, justice must be sought and resolution must be pursued.”

In 2011, members of the Mohawk Nation invited activist Kevin Annett to the site of the former Brantford residential school to investigate claims of remains of former students on the property. Annett said his group completed a test dig in a 20- square- foot area on the grounds and found “a considerable number of bones as well as buttons which have been confirmed to be part of the children’s school uniforms.”

But the Six Nations elected council at the time was critical of the process, calling on those involved to follow reputable archeological processes.

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