Surprise visit exposes deficiencies at Mohawk Institute

BRANTFORD – A memorandum dated March 26th, 1918, and addressed to Minister of Indian Affairs, Duncan Campbell Scott informs of a lawsuit filed by two Six Nations fathers, George W. Miller and Jefferson D. Isaac against Principal A. Nelles Ashton for “unlawful assault and excessive punishment” of their children at the Mohawk Institute. The boy and girl were expelled from the Mohawk Institute and their fathers wanted to know why.

They were promised an advance of $100 to cover the legal costs, however, the Confederacy Chiefs Council, who were the government of Six Nations at the time, were later told the government would not pay since it was a ”personal matter.”

The case went ahead anyhow and was presented before Mr. Justice Kelly on March 31st, 1914. After hearing the complaint, Judge Kelly ruled in favour of the Chiefs Council.

Ashton was officially charged and was forced to pay $100 for keeping a girl in a cell for three days on a water diet. He was also fined $300 for “whipping on bareback with rawhide.”

In another communication, it tells of a surprise visit to the Mohawk Institute to assess the work of then principal, Turnell. It was not a flattering report.

“Mr. Turnell seemed very much unsettled and worried about conditions, as he has made all arrangements to leave in August and has not yet heard whether a successor has been secured,” says the less than stellar report on the living conditions at the school. On the other hand, the finances and books were well kept making Turnell one of the most fiscally responsible of MI principals.

Before his successor was selected, Mrs. A.M. Boyce, was asked to fill in and accepted the temporary post. She was faced with the same obstacles that frustrated Ashton. The building was in dire need of maintenance and repair, with no budget to get the work done.

She was put off by the general uncleanliness of the dorms but was mostly shocked by the poor condition of the old beds, mattresses and blankets being used for the residents.

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