On Thursday, October 15, the Save the Evidence Fundraising Campaign erected a fundraising thermometer in front of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Brantford in a triumph to save the building from deterioration.
Representing Six Nations and affixing the Six Nations of the Grand River logo to the thermometer, Chief Ava Hill stood alongside Brantford City Mayor Chris Friel and President of Rotary Sunshine Kevin Davis, who also affixed their logos to the thermometer.
Woodland Cultural Centre Museum Director Paula Whitlow previously told the Brantford Expositor that the extensive repairs needed to restore the building are upwards of $5 million dollars.
“Some people ask how we can find beauty (in the building) when you know what it stood for,” said Whitlow. “There is architectural beauty even if historically there is not. It’s a reminder to Canada of what happened.”
Both the Six Nations elected council and the City of Brantford contributed $220,000, while Rotary Sunshine contributed a pledge of $35,000, bringing the goal of the fundraising campaign closer to its first $1 million dollar goal.
The purpose of Save the Evidence, as released in a letter on October 4, is to begin “establishing Canada’s first ‘Canadian Museum of Conscience’ (CMC) in the city of Brantford, Ontario, on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.” The vision for the project is to restore, refurbish and retrofit the former Mohawk Institute to become CMC and an interpretation centre.
The letter stated that “this project has become ever more timely in stature and has become a ‘project of reconciliation,” that responds to several of the ‘Calls to Action,’ identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Summary Report, ‘Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future,’ 2015, thus growing to becoming Canada’s first CMC.”
On the subject of the project, Mayor Chris Friel told Brant News that a Museum of Conscience is a “fantastic idea.”
“I’ve had people say ‘I have no idea, why would they want to save that, why don’t they tear it down? The memories are just awful,’” said Friel. “I’ve said to everybody, the second we do that, it is nothing more than a memory and it’s gone,” he said.
The institute opened its doors in 1827, and is one of fewer than 10 remaining. Over 150,000 Inuit, Metis and First Nations children were taken from their families and homes to attend residential schools, with more than 130 schools across Canada. The building is hoped to remain for future generations, mainly to educate and continue to be a constant reminder.