Researchers have discovered that 97 children died while attending the Mush Hole, almost double the number previously identified over a decade ago by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The revelation came at a year in review held on Wednesday by the Six Nations Survivors Secretariat at their new office on Fourth Line Road. The Secretariat is made up of survivors who attended the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford.
The year in review has also revealed that less than two percent of the 600 acres of land has been surveyed using ground penetrating radar, as survivors and police search for possible hidden graves surrounding the school.
The Secretariat was launched last summer following the discovery of 215 hidden graves at a former residential school in Kamloops.
In the past year, the secretariat has unearthed thousands of documents, including old photos of previously unidentified students at the school.
The secretariat is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying those children.
They’ve received about $13 million in funding for the next three years to look for answers as to what happened to numerous children who went missing or died under mysterious circumstances while attending the school, as well as funding the work to survey the grounds around and near the school for potential hidden graves.
Sherlene Bomberry, a survivor of the Mohawk Institute, said they anticipate the ground search could take longer than three years.
They’re purchased three GPR (ground penetrating radar) machines and laid out 418 grids measuring 10 feet by 10 feet.
Each grid takes about 90 minutes to survey with a GPR machine.
The search can only take place from May to November, and only when the ground is dry.
As of Aug. 26, data has been collected on 387 of those grids, which represent less than two percent of the total search area.
Analysis of the data collected so far hasn’t even begun, said Bomberry.
The secretariat has partnered with a research group, Know History, and through their work, they’ve identified 4,581 names of children who attended the Mohawk Institute. They’ve also identified 725 names of people who worked at the institute and 97 deaths, more than double the number of deaths originally identified by the TRC over a decade ago.
The secretariat is working on proper protocols to inform families before releasing the list of names and document sources, which will be on their website, said Bomberry.
They’re encouraging anyone with tips to reach out to the police task force tip line at 1 888 523 8587.
Know History is working to negotiate access more documents from various institutions and churches involved in the administration of the Mohawk Institute.
To date, Know History has identified about 12,000 relevant documents that need to be organized and archived.
Executive lead Laura Arndt introduced herself to survivors at Wednesday’s event, saying she was honoured and humbled to be part of the work.
Arndt is an intergenerational survivor. Her mother attended the Mohawk Institute.
“We’re all still surviving,” she said. “We’re moving to a new space because survivors who spent a lifetime telling their stories are still telling their stories and they’re now in a space where the community is joining them.”
She said the past summer has been “difficult”, with about 9.5 total acres searched for potential graves so far.
“The impact and the legacy is felt far beyond the boundaries of communities.”
Arndt said they anticipate a busy fall season ahead for the GPR team.