Hundreds of motorcycle riders from across Ontario came together in unity with Six Nations in a ride from Brantford to Niagara on the Lake on Sunday to raise money for the Save the Evidence campaign.
The ride, organized by Redrum Motorcycle Club, was also intended to honour residential school survivors.
The Save the Evidence campaign aims to raise enough money to fix the crumbling Woodland Cultural Centre, an old and historic colonial building on Mohawk Street in Brantford that used to be the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Thousands of Indigenous children, many from Six Nations, attended the school for over a century in a government-mandated attempt to assimilate Indigenous people into Canadian culture. Children faced rampant abuse at the schools, including starvation, physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as forced physical labour, in an attempt to “kill the Indian in the child.”
The horrifying legacy of residential schools in Canada blew up on a global scale this past May when the remains of 150 Indigenous children were found in an old, hidden grave at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, sending shockwaves around the world. Since then, thousands more remains have been found at residential schools across the country.
Brian General, president of the Six Nations chapter of the Redrum Motorcycle Club, was heartened to see the huge turnout of allies at the Woodland Cultural Centre on Sunday who stood in solidarity with Six Nations.
“We’re not different,” he said of the allies that came out on Sunday. “We’re different colour skin, we have different coloured vests but we’re all the same. They come here to learn. They want to know what’s really going on.”
He said the members of Redrum were “shocked” upon learning of the discovery of the bodies and wanted to do something to help.
“It was offensive. They wanted to find a way to help in any way possible.”
Hundreds of riders turned out in orange shirts, the colour associated with support for residential school survivors.
“It’s a beautiful sight,” said General, as riders geared up along the long driveway of the former Mohawk Institute to head out onto the road for Niagara on the Lake.
The federal and provincial governments recently committed $9 million to help repair the crumbling old building, which General says needs to be preserved to educate future generations about the horrors of residential schools.