Historic unity march in Brantford honours residential school survivors

The streets of Brantford were a sea of orange on July 1, as thousands of Six Nations people and allies marched in honour of the over 1,300 children found in hidden graves at residential schools in Canada since May.

The action was in symbolic opposition to Canada Day, with Indigenous people and allies across the country marking the day in mourning over the discoveries and lamenting the country’s treatment of Indigenous people.

Brantford joined cities across Canada holding marches while the usual Canada Day festivities of fireworks were cancelled across the country in response to the shocking discoveries.

Meanwhile, at Six Nations survivors held a memorial at Veterans Park.

“We need to remember the children,” said Mohawk Institute survivor Dawn Hill.

She called for unity on Six Nations.

“We need to stay together as a community. I don’t think we need dissension. I would like to hope that everyone…practices a good mind. I don’t know how to say that in Mohawk. I grew up in the Mush Hole. We didn’t have a chance to learn our language. I’m hoping that everybody thinks about the children. Not only out west, but all throughout Canada. I’m hoping against hope we don’t find anything at the (Mohawk Institute) but I think there is, from all the stories we’ve heard over the years. There has to be something there.”

Elected Chief Mark Hill encouraged Canadians to use the day to reflect on Canada’s treatment of Indigenous people.

In lieu of celebrating, Six Nations encouraged Canadians to use July 1 as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors, victims and Indigenous communities.

“The confirmation of these graves is a stark reminder of the atrocities committed against Indigenous people throughout Canada’s history and of the injustices we continue to face today,” said Elected Chief Hill.

He acknowledged many people have reasons for wanting to celebrate Canada Day but he also called on Canadians to acknowledge the country’s colonial legacy and the effects it has had, and continues to have, on Indigenous people.

Six Nations itself has turned into a sea of orange, with orange flags and hearts dotting the landscape of downtown Ohsweken in remembrance of all residential school survivors and victims. Orange is worn in remembrance of residential school survivors in commemoration of annual Orange Shirt Day on Sept. 30. This year, Sept. 30 will be marked as a federal statutory holiday for the first time in the country’s history.

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