BRANTFORD — There is a new name in the historical Queen Anne bible, a gift to the Mohawks by England’s Queen Anne in 1710 when the “four kings” visited her in England.
Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell was “honoured” to be asked to sign her name next to generations of English matriarchs and dignitaries who visited the Chapel, and have signed it over the past 300 years.
The visit also had a somber tone. Dowdeswell was taken on a personal tour of the Mohawk Institute building in which generations of Onkwehonwe children were systematically abused and mistreated.
Mohawk Chapel’s Cultural Coordinator, Jacqueline Jamieson, said she was told the tour was “quite emotional” for the Lt. Governor.
Dowdeswell was joined by several local dignitaries at the special Anglican service including: Brantford Mayor Chris Friel, County of Brant Mayor Ron Eddy, Liberal MP and Speaker of the House Dave Levac, and Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill.
NDP candidate Marc Laferriere was also present as an observer.
Along with Mohawk Chapel’s Chaplain Reverend Larry Brown, were National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark McDonald, Huron Diocese Bishop Terry Dance, and Father Norman Casey of Six Nations Anglican Church who jointly conducted the service.
Greeting the visitors was “Mush Hole” survivor Geronimo Henry, who spent several of his formative years at the Mohawk Institute, and was instrumental in the class action lawsuit against Canada for its part in the forced assimilation of Native children and the attempted genocide of Indigenous culture and language by both the Anglican Church and the federal government.
Geronimo has found his own peace since his lost years at the residential school.
Hymns were sung in the Mohawk language by the St. Paul’s Mohawk Choir accompanied by organist Barrie Hill.
Hill is heading up the Mohawk Chapel restoration project, which includes a new roof and structural repairs on the spire. Although there have been several restoration projects over the past 230 years, the age of the structure requires much maintenance.
Hill thanked Weston Foundation, Six Nations Community Trust, Ontario Trillium Foundation and McLean Foundation, and Six Nations Tourism for its support in the most recent round of restorations.
It stands as the first Protestant Church in Canada and is the oldest surviving church in Ontario, and was built shortly after Joseph Brant and about 1,800 others removed themselves from their traditional territory following the American Revolution, to accept from the British Crown almost 960,000 square miles of land — six miles on either side of the Grand River in exchange for the lands lost while supporting the Loyalist cause during that war.
The structure still has its original 1785 wood floors, pews, bell and alter. There have been damaging fires over the years and the orientation of the church itself has changed. It was originally facing the Grand River which was used as a highway in those days before being lifted of its foundation and turned to face what is now Mohawk Street. The Chapel also holds in trust for the Six Nations people the Communion silver given to the Mohawks in 1710, long before the American Revolution.