Fundraising has begun for a proposed memorial monument to those who died while under the “care” of the Anglican Church and Federal Government at the Mohawk Institute residential school built on Mohawk land in Brantford.
The school closed in 1970 but its legacy continues for not only those children who survived the experience, but for their children and even their grand children today.
Roberta Hill is a survivor with a sadly too familiar story of rape and abuse at the hands of former school principal and Anglican Minister, Rev. John Zimmerman between 1957 and 1961.
Recently she made acquaintance with an Anglican women named Nancy Herne, who has discovered documents held by the Anglican Diocese in London, Ontario that includes the names of 140 children who died, many of them buried somewhere on the grounds of the school or near the Mohawk Chapel. This number is considered low, taking into account the generations of Onkwehonwe children enrolled there over the years.
“In my own research I came up with the names of more not on her list,” says Hill.
Documentary evidence has surfaced in recent years, some found by independent researchers and some through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that supports personal stories of neglect and abuse, and Hill wants to see some form of commemoration for those who died and those who survived but carry the physical and emotional scars with them.
“At residential schools across the country there are records of children who died while in their care and were buried on the property,” says Hill. She wonders why that would not be the case at the Mush Hole too.
She charges that the Diocese must know where these burials are, although if they do have that information, they have not revealed it.
Her concern isn’t so much that these graves be disturbed, but rather that when the memorial is built, it will not accidentally uncover them.
“Like at St. Paul’s at Six Nations, they know approximately where everyone is buried since 1900, and they stay away from there,” says Hill.
Case in point is St Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont., where a home-made electric chair was being used as a normal means of punishment and entertainment by the school’s staff as they forced children to hold hands while the current flowed through them.
Seven former employees of a remote Roman Catholic boarding school in Northern Ontario were charged with sexual assault and assault, capping a five-year investigation.
Ann Wesley, 72, of Moosonee, Ont., is charged with five counts of assault, three counts of assault causing bodily harm and five counts of administering a noxious substance [children who became sick after eating rotten porridge were forced to consume their own vomit]. John Moses Rodrique, 49, of Timmins, Ont., faced four charges of indecent assault and two of gross indecency.
Also charged with indecent assault are Claude Lambert, 50, of St. Andre-Avellin, Que., Claude Chenier, 49, of Aylmer, Que., John Cushing, 77, of Kitchener, Ont,. and Marcel Blais, 49, of Ottawa. Charged with three counts of assault causing bodily harm is 61-year -old Jane Kakeychewan, named in one of the arrest warrants.
Even when forced to comply with the TRC, it was only the documents the Diocese wanted to reveal that were made available, and the records and evidence from the St Anne’s case in January of 2014 were spirited away by the government after the trial. But when they were forced to turn over the documents to the TRC, large areas were blacked out, including the names of those responsible.
Fundraising has only begun for the memorial, and more information will be forthcoming as to how to help.
Hill’s organization is working with the Woodland Cultural Museum, hoping to support the renovations of the Mush Hole and the plan to use it as a Residential Schools Museum and archive.