BRANTFORD – Restorations at the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford are well under way thanks to all the donations made to the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign.
“Woodland is currently in Phase 1 of the renovations, which is the repair of the roof,” said Jessica Powless, outreach co-ordinator for the centre. “Construction is currently underway.”
In 2013, major roof leaks caused significant and costly damage to the historic residential school building. The Save The Evidence campaign was launched in response and its goal was to raise the necessary funds for repairs and renovations to ensure the physical evidence of the dark history of residential schools in Canada is never forgotten. The first phase of the project had a goal of $1,000,000.
“The Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School operated in Brantford, Ontario from 1828 to 1970,” reads the centre’s website. “It served as a boarding school for First Nations children from Six Nations, as well as other communities throughout Ontario and Quebec. It served as a key tool in the effort to assimilate First Nations children into European Christian society, and sever the continuity of culture from parent to child. After closing in 1970, it reopened in 1972 as the Woodland Cultural Centre, a non-profit organization that serves to preserve and promote First Nations culture and heritage.”
The school building has been providing in-depth and historically significant insight into the Residential School System for the past 44 years. With close to 10,000 visitors every year, their tours and programs offer a distinctive look into First Nations and Canadian history.
With renovations underway on such a historical and important building there are precautions that need to be made to ensure the safety and preservation of historical documents and artifacts remain undamaged; something staff at the centre is full aware of.
“Woodland is working with heritage firms that specialize in historical preservation, so all precautions are being made,” said Powless.
During one of the centre’s tours, a tour guide will show guests how children at the school found ways to interact with one another even though it was often forbidden. The children would sign their names on some of the building’s exterior bricks and they would also climb in and around some of the buildings walls that lead to small cubbyholes after curfew to spend time together. It’s special little human-interest elements like these that the centre is going to make sure remain preserved.
Renovations are to be completed in June 2017. In the meantime, day-to-day activities at the centre remain uninterrupted.
“It’s life as usual at Woodland,” said Powless. “All events and tours are still taking place, and we are open to the public. In fact, we are booked for tours until the end of June.”