“It’s our form of reconciliation,” — Dawn Hill, treasurer and secretary of the Mohawk Village Memorial Park.
BRANTFORD — Growing day-by-day beside the Mohawk Institute is a pavilion that will be opened this coming March.
The pavilion is a part of the five year and ongoing journey of an organization fuelled by local members that have been in the process of building a five acre memorial park dedicated to the children that attended the Mohawk Institute residential school.
The Mohawk Village Memorial Park is a federally registered not-for-profit organization maintained by a volunteer board of directors — the pavilion is the first piece to be fully funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).
After five years of applying for funding and at times being turned down, Secretary and Treasurer Dawn Hill said that the finalization of the park can’t come soon enough.
“We’ll just keep plugging along,” said Hill. “We just said ‘we hope that at some point there’s still survivors left to even see the park,’ you know, ‘cause most of us are getting older and some of our oldest members are in their 80s.”
She said that the youngest members are in their 50s, which shows just how close the impacts of residential schools are, contrary to popular belief.
“As for when it will be finished, it will be finished when we get funding,” she said.
The board of directors currently includes Chair Roberta Hill, Directors Sherlene Bomberry, John Elliot, Shelley Clark, and Hill, who added that the organization is roughly comprised of 20 survivors, descendants and interested community members.
“We got together years ago and we just decided ‘what could we do in a positive way,’ and it’s supposed to be a positive thing,” she said.
“You know, the Mush Hole itself has a very dark history and we were there, my sister and I, and most of the people on our board, since the 40s right until it closed up, and we decided we should do a positive memorial park dedicated to those children.”
The organization later approached Band Council, who allowed their access to the five acres, while Ontario Hydro later donated funds to allow the board to put up the sign at the front.
Hill said that the National Indian Brotherhood Fund and Imperial Oil declined funding altogether, but the board later carefully selected Cedar Springs to construct the pavilion once funding was secured.
“They assured us that it should be done by the end of February,” she said, including that the overall cost of the park will be over 2 million once it is finished.
By visiting “http://www.mohawkvillagepark.com/” online and clicking “Memorial Park” you can take a virtual tour.
Those looking to offer donations can also find information on the same site and an honorary opening of the pavilion with the OTF will take place in March.
“We’re going to have a fire pit and playground equipment, but it has more to do with putting up a memorial for the children that went there.”