On July 21, 2021, Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Chief Mark B. Hill stood alongside Residential School Survivors as they provided their statement to police asking for an investigation into and a search for unmarked graves at the former site of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ontario.
It has been determined by a Survivor-led Circle that the search will proceed as a Criminal and potential Death Investigation. It is critical that evidence is preserved and protected in the pursuit of justice for the children who were harmed and died while attending these so-called “schools”.
Additionally, Chief Mark Hill announced that Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council will support the creation of a Survivor Secretariat with $1 million in interim funding so they can start this important work. This funding will be used until previously announced funding from the provincial and federal governments is obtained.
“It is incredibly important that this work be driven and guided by Survivors,” stated Elected Chief Mark Hill. “We are here to support them in whatever way we can; support them to get justice not only for themselves but for all children who are not able to stand with us today. Today’s announcement is only the first step towards that justice.”
Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner of Ontario, shared, “Guided by the wishes of Indigenous communities, Survivors and their families, the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and Office of the Chief Coroner will support investigations and provide scientific and technical support in examining burial sites of children’s remains found in or around former Indian Residential Schools.”
The Mohawk Institute was opened in 1828, the first to be opened in Canada, and was the longest-operating Indian Residential School in the country. It was relocated once and burnt down twice, and ultimately closed at its current location in 1970.
The fact that the school was relocated and destroyed twice by fire makes the search even more difficult. There are over 430 acres to search, plus an 88 acre farm adjacent to the Mohawk Institute. The investigation not only includes a search of the grounds of the Mohawk Institute, but also extensive research into archival records and requires Nation-to-Nation dialogues with other First Nations whose children may have died at the Mohawk Institute and who may have Six Nations children on their territories where other Indian Residential Schools were located.
Additionally, it is crucial that Survivors and the community are kept informed on the progress of the investigation. We understand that the community is anxious for updates on the search plans, however we need to ensure that we aren’t rushing this investigation and that we are proceeding in a respectful, trauma-informed, and culturally relevant way. Throughout the investigation, updates will be shared as they become available, similar to today’s announcement.
We understand that this is a difficult topic for many. If you are struggling and need support, there are resources available to you:
- Six Nations 24/7 Mobile Crisis Line: 519-445-2204 or 1-866-445-2204
- Six Nations Mental Health and Addictions: 519-445-2143 (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm)
- National Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419
The road to recovering our missing children will be a long and difficult one. Today’s announcement is only the first step towards achieving justice for them and for our Survivors. We as a community must lean on one another in the coming weeks, months, and years in order to get through this and heal together. We will bring our children home.