EAGLES NEST/BRANTFORD – Archaeology was completed at the roots of all of the trees in the front orchard of the old Mohawk Institute residential school on Mohawk Street in Brantford. Rumors and speculation of illegitimate babies born at the Mush Hole being euthanized and buried under trees on the front lawn were finally answered.
Until now, these speculations have persisted among former students that babies were conceived, killed or died in childbirth and buried at the Mush Hole. But after the extensive archaeology project recently completed in advance of the pending park project to begin soon that specific legend can be laid to rest.
“Since the trees had to come out anyway,” says archaeologist Sarah Clarke. “It was decided to have the grounds undergo a full archaeological assessment, given the stories of buried fetuses on the front lawn. It was a volunteer project which lasted several weekends bringing a dozen or so budding archaeologists from the University, under the oversight of an HDI assigned archaeological monitor and Clarke.
“I am not saying there are no remains buried on the grounds,” Sarah says carefully. “But what we know now is that there is no evidence of any human remains at the foot of any of those trees.”
What was found, however, speaks of children losing small toys, hair clips, broken dish wear and an old brick wall probably of one of the former outbuildings behind the present school building.
But below that, pottery chards were found from pre-contact times proving, once again, this area of Brantford has been occupied for centuries due to its proximity to the Grand River and the large forested area surrounding it where deer and bear and other game as well as fish were abundant. These are the same reasons Joseph Brant decided to settle the Mohawks and such others of the Six Nations that chose to give up their traditional lands in Ohio and upstate New York following the American Revolution.
The archaeological work began with test pits dug to the subsoil and carefully screened for small artifacts. Those results were adequate enough to necessitate “test units of a metre square to be dug at the tree bases and one meter on either side of each tree,” says Clarke.
Some artifacts have not been cleaned and catalogued to date, but none are expected to reveal human remains, according to Clarke.
The artifacts that were found will be displayed as part of the restoration of the old school into a museum dedicated to the residential school experience. Inside the school, there were several interesting finds which will also be highlighted when the Mush Hole museum is ready to open its doorstop the public. Most of these items are like snap shots of that horrible time in Canadian history when Native children were removed from their families, their homes, customs, traditions, and language and placed in residential schools across Canada for the sole purpose of cultural genocide and assimilation into the Canadian mainstream.
Unspeakable horrors faced many of the young “students” under the care of the Anglican and Catholic Church and the Canadian Government between around 1832 and 1970, when the Mush Hole was officially closed.