Survivors of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford called for a criminal investigation today, saying over 50 children went missing while attending the school.
Flanked by Brantford Police and Six Nations Police, Mohawk Institute survivor Dawn Hill told a press conference gathered in front of the building that the disappearance of the children was a crime, calling for an investigation and search of the grounds at the former residential school for potential hidden graves.
“We request the police to investigate the deaths of these children and where they are buried,” she said, reading from a letter addressed to Six Nations Police Chief Darren Montour. “We need answers and we need to find the children.”
About 15,000 Six Nations children attended the Mohawk Institute, also known as The Mush Hole due to the bland, sticky porridge the kids were forced to eat for breakfast every day. Hill said many of those children never came home.
“We were told they ran away,” said Hill. “We never saw them again and neither did their families. Many children died at the Institute. We don’t know what happened to them or where they are buried. I believe many are buried at the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute, now the Woodland Cultural Centre, as well as the adjacent grounds and fields.”
She said survivors believe children at the school due to the actions of staff and that the deaths were “highly suspicious. They were not reported and covered up.”
The call comes after the remains of more than 1,300 children have been discovered in previously unknown graves at residential schools across Canada since May.
The Mohawk Institute was Canada’s longest-running residential school and closed down in 1970.
Two fires at the school over the past century will make the search for possible remains even more difficult, said Six Nations Elected Chief Mark Hill.
“We have just witnessed survivors making an official request to our police,” he said. “We know that this is enough to trigger a criminal investigation.”
Death records uncovered during the years 2008 to 2015, while the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigated the horrors behind residential schools, revealed 52 children died while attending the Mohawk Institute.
“What we don’t know, is where those little bodies are buried,” said Chief Hill.
About 500 acres formed the school property.
“Every last acre needs to be searched,” he said.