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SURVIVOR ROBERTA HILL HONOURS THE MEMORY OF THE CHILDREN WHO ATTENDED THE MOHAWK INSTITUTE 

By Lindsay Monture

Roberta Hill keeps herself busy by playing an active role in exposing the dark side of Canada’s history, Indian Residential Schools, that has been kept hidden for too long, and makes efforts to help the community and the public heal and move forward together.  She is one of many Mohawk Institute Survivors who frequently work with the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Education Department to deliver conversations with visitors in our continued effort to educate people about the legacy of Residential Schools.  Roberta is on the Save the Evidence Advisory Committee, and sits on the Mohawk Village Memorial Park Board.  What is very apparent in all the work she does is the love and commitment she shows in honouring the memory of the children who attended Residential Schools.

Roberta is Mohawk, Turtle Clan. She attended the Mohawk Institute from February of 1957 to January of 1961. Out of six siblings who came into the school, only she and her sister Dawn were sent to be fostered in Durham County.  Her other siblings were fostered at Six Nations. They were wards of the crown from age 6 to 18. Roberta returned home after she aged out of the system, but returning to Six Nations wasn’t as easy as one would think.

“You think you’re coming back to the life you had.  It doesn’t work that way. The kids are grown up. You don’t recognize them because your last memory you had of them in your mind, they’re still little,” Roberta explains.  “When you see them, they look at you like you’re a stranger, so it was really a hard transition to try to fit in.  It always seems like you’re in limbo somewhere. Where do you belong when you weren’t raised here?”  

As children, Roberta and Dawn were moved around and went through three foster homes. “You’re not really tied to anything, there aren’t roots you can put down anywhere, and that’s half the battle with kids.  You need to have a stable, firm foundation for kids to grow up in. You need to plant those roots early,” she says.  Roberta has a lot of sympathy for the treatment of  children, but especially for the ones who came to the Mush Hole (Mohawk Institute) from up north.

“They didn’t speak anything but their own Native language and they brought them into this environment and expected them to learn and adapt to another language.  They don’t know why they’re gonna get punished for speaking their language. It’s just cruel all-around,” says Roberta, who uses her experience as a driving force for her advocacy.  “To me, I didn’t find much help for kids. It’s institutional here, it’s like jail. You gotta learn the rules and follow the rules and you’ll be okay – maybe. If you follow the rules you don’t get into too much trouble.  It’s just not a way to raise children. Once we [Survivors] started talking about Residential School and we’re hearing a lot more people come forward with their stories, you become a witness to their pain. It’s not just about you, it’s about others and how many were hurt by this Residential School system.”

Through her involvement with the Woodland Cultural Centre, Save the Evidence, and the Mohawk Village Memorial Park, Roberta carries hope for the community to find peace moving forward. She reflects on her childhood, and all the times when she found solace playing outside of the girls’ side of the building, where the park will be built.

“That was one of the safest places for me, it was more peaceful and I just loved playing outside, so it has a lot of significance to me,” Roberta recalls. “It was just always safe. Mother Nature never hurt us. The land never hurt us. It was always outdoors where we had our little adventures and we could do what kids do.”

“All I want is for children to be remembered.  I want people to remember what happened in this building, and this building represents all the other ones,” Roberta says.  She expresses that she appreciates that the building still stands today, despite its history. “It’s a good thing it didn’t get torn down you know, because we would have nothing. I know it’s an ugly history.  It is ugly memories for a lot of us, but it proves the point that it existed.”  

While the Mohawk Institute building still stands, she believes the Mohawk Village Memorial Park will add a positive balance to the property.  

“I can’t reconcile with all that’s done, but within myself I think this park will create an environment that’s peaceful, it’s safer, it can tell a story too,” she explains. “It’s one of those places where – I want to gather in peace. I don’t want to gather in violence and all those hurtful things that went on in this building. Why can’t we gather in peace and move forward together? I think that’s significant because it can be a path forward to good things.”

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THE MOHAWK INSTITUTE IN THE TUNNELS OF VIMY RIDGE, 1917

By Tara Froman

Canadigm, a volunteer-driven organization undertaking projects that bring Canadian history to life, reached out to the Woodland Cultural Centre recently with a discovery they had made in the World War One tunnels under Vimy Ridge.  The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment in the War efforts of the Canadian forces. Approximately 100000 Canadian soldiers, the first time all four Canadian Expeditionary Divisions fought in the same battle, faced the Kaiser’s German Army over four days in April 1917.

Underground warfare is a little known aspect of the battles of WWI.  The French, and then the British [as well as the Germans] created vast, interconnected tunnels in attempts to move troops in a protected manner, and break through enemy lines with a maximum of surprise.  The Souterraine under Vimy is one such example of these tunnels.

Soldiers in the tunnels relieved their boredom and nerves with carving into the chalk walls of the Vimy tunnels.  From simple names to elaborately carved motifs, the allied soldiers of WWI left their marks on the tunnels of Vimy.  Canadigm is currently scanning and recreating 3-D images of these carvings.

Two men from Six Nations number among the many WWI soldiers that marked the chalk tunnel walls.  Canadigm has sent scans of the carvings made by Six Nations soldiers Jacob Williams and Jacob Silversmith.

Jacob Silversmith

In the 1911 Canadian census, Jacob Silversmith is listed as a pupil of the Mohawk Institute born in 1897. School records agree with this birthdate and provide further insight into Jake’s background.  Jacob Silversmith was from the Onondaga Nation. For the first four years of his life he was raised in the Longhouse tradition but with the death of both of his parents in 1901, his guardian introduced him into the Anglican faith.  In the enrollment record, Jake is listed as “now Christian.” When he enlisted in the 114th Battalion he cited his religion as “Church of England.”  Silversmith’s guardian gave the reason for his admission to the Mohawk Institute as “[He] cannot learn in school [and] hopes to be taught to work on [a] farm.”

Jacob’s story continues to be of interest as upon the September 1914 declaration of war against Germany, Jake attempted to enlist in the Canadian Army at the age of 16-17.  Knowing he was too young to enlist, Jake lied and gave his birthdate as “April 10, 1893.” He made it to the east coast of Canada before his true age was discovered and he was discharged as being underage.

Remembering this failed attempt, Jacob re-enlisted in 1916 when the 114th Battalion was forming.  Although he was of age by this date, Silversmith decided to take no chances with being denied the opportunity to serve.  Having previously failed to get overseas under the name “Jacob Silversmith” and the birthdate “April 10, 1893”, Jacob enlisted in 1916 as “Jake Silversmith” [although he signed Jacob Silversmith] with a birthdate of “June 1, 1892.”  He successfully made it to England with the 114th Battalion. 

When the 114th Battalion was dismantled and its personnel assigned to other Canadian battalions, Jacob eventually found his place in the 107th Winnipeg Battalion – the final destination of many of the men of the 114th and another famed “Indian” Battalion.  With the 107th, Jake was placed in the tunnels of Vimy to carve and fight his way into history.

Jacob survived the war and was deactivated in April 1919.  He was formerly discharged in Hamilton, Ontario; stating for the record that he was going home to his address in Caledonia (The southeast portion of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve has a Caledonia rural route address.).  This is the last time Jake/Jacob Silversmith appears in the historic record.Anyone with additional information on either Jacob Silversmith is encouraged to contact the Woodland Cultural Centre with the rest of Jake’s story.  Additionally, the Centre is also interested in learning of Jacob Williams’ life story. Both of these WWI veterans have a memorial 114th Flag waiting for one their descendants to claim at the Centre.

 

For more stories like this and updates on the Save the Evidence campaign sign up for our E-Newsletter here

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Join our Team!

Executive Director

Under the guidance of the Woodland Cultural Centre Board of Directors, the Executive Director guides the strategic vision, mandate, mission and goals of the organization. As a local and national leader, the Executive Director will perform a wide range of complex management activities related to financial, governance, human resource management, community engagement, programme development, marketing/branding, advocacy and fundraising from both the public and private sectors.

The Executive Director will engage in a process of strategic planning and implementation in support of the mission, vision, mandate and goals of the Centre, and will ensure the Centre retains its leadership in all areas related to its Constitution.

The Executive Director will be visionary in fundraising, community engagement, and policy frameworks which will enable the Centre to achieve sustainability and leadership within a non-profit, charitable operational structure, while ensuring responsiveness to its primary stakeholder communities, partners and funders.

The Executive Director will lead the Centre into the important next phase of its history, building upon the foundational achievements of the past 47 years.

Overview of Responsibilities:

The Executive Director is responsible for the strategic operations of the WCC. This includes the day-to-day operations of the Museum/Gallery, the Mohawk Institute Historic Site, the Library/Archives, the Language programme and all other associated activities.

1) To work with the Centre’s Board of Directors to ensure a dynamic, forward-looking, vision, mission and goals for the Centre.
2) To create a progressive operational/management infrastructure in financial and human resource management, programme development, community engagement, marketing, education, collection management, museum and gallery exhibitions, historic site management, language resources and library and archives to operationalize the Centre’s strategic vision.
3) To advocate and fundraise with the public, private and corporate sectors with a view towards sustainability and growth of the Centre’s strategic goals.
4) To ensure responsibility and responsiveness to community stakeholders.
5) To ensure strategic short, medium and long term planning and financial supports.
6) To manage, motivate and develop a highly effective staff and volunteer team.
7) To develop and implement robust marketing, media and social media strategies to support the Centre’s activities and aspirations.
8) To demonstrate leadership within the Centre, locally and nationally on issues related to WCC mission.

Qualifications:

The Executive Director shall have:

1) Respect, have knowledge and sensitivity to Indigenous Ontario and beyond; its culture, heritage, traditions, histories, aspirations, and protocols, and Woodland Cultural Centre goals and objectives.
2) Proven senior management leadership expertise developed over 5 years of experience and relevant academic qualifications such as Business Administration/Cultural Management and/or other related education.
3) A track record of strategic planning with achievable and proven results.
4) Progressive expertise in fundraising from the public, private and corporate sectors.
5) Demonstrated and innovative approaches to financial and resource management.
6) The ability to communicate effectively to a range of stakeholders both verbally and in written form.
7) Recognized success in overseeing the development of innovative educational frameworks.
8) Excellent interpersonal and problem-solving skills and the ability to facilitate a positive work environment that supports staff development and success.

 

DOWNLOAD FULL JOB DESCRIPTION HERE

All applicants for this position should submit a cover letter, a current CV or Resume, and three references.

Preference will be given to applicants of Indigenous heritage.

 

If interested, please send cover letter and resumé with references to:

Woodland Cultural Centre
184 Mohawk Street
Brantford, ON N3S 2X2

Attn: Melanie Fernandez
Interim Executive Director
(519) 759-2650
administration@woodlandculturalcentre.ca

Note: Only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

 

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

 

Saturday June 29 – Main Stage

8pm – 9pm

Logan Staats

 

Logan Staats

 

Born on the Six Nations Reserve and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Staats is a young father from the Mohawk Nation. He started writing and performing music in his teens, playing the guitar and harmonica.

Logan is perhaps best known from winning The Launch, and for his single The Lucky Ones. He has shared the stage with multiple well-known artists, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keith Secola and Mumford and Sons.

Staats’ newest single, Fear of the Flame, is available on iTunes

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

 

Sunday June 30 – Main Stage

4PM – 6PM

Andy Thomas

 

Andy Thomas, Bear Clan, Oneida, Smoke Dance Singer

 

Andy Thomas, also known by some as Taohyagedo, is a traditional singer & dancer from the Bear Clan of the Oneida Nation. Taohyagedo graduated from Gaweni:yo High School in 2002 and has had the privilege of learning from some of the most knowledgeable Haudenosaunee teachers, singers, and leaders of our generation. At their encouragement, he has spent the last 20 years continuing to learn and teach Ukwehuwe’neha culture and language here in his home community of Six Nations, as well as in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory and Oneida Nation at the Thames. He spent time in First Nations Studies and Media Theory at Western University from 2010-2014.

Aside from his time as an artist in graphic design and water-drum making, he currently works as an Oneida Language teacher at Tsi Niyukwalihot^ Learning Centre in Oneida, Ontario.

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

 

Sunday June 30 – Main Stage

2PM – 3PM

The Sinquah Family Dance Troupe

 

The Sinquah Family Dance Troupe are Moontee Sinquah and his sons, Sampson and Scott

 

The Sinquah Family Dance Troupe are Hopi/Tewa/Choctaw nations, from the Hopi villages located in northern Arizona. The troupe consists of Moontee Sinquah and his sons, Sampson and Scott, all of whom are deeply rooted in the Hopi culture and tradition.They will tell you music is the medicine that allowed them to make a life that helped them endure and also educate and entertain people all over the world. In addition to music, they are World Champion Hoop Dancers; titles they hold humbly and with it seek to educate and entertain as much as possible.

The World Champion Hoop Dance contest is held annually at the Internationally-renowned Heard Museum in Phoenix Arizona. In addition to being World Champion Hoop Dancers, Moontee is a champion Grass Dancer, Scott is a champion Fancy War Dancer and Sampson is a champion Prairie Chicken Dancer in the USA and Canada. The Sinquah family are well known in the pow wow circuit and traveling internationally with other very talented musicians has brought an influence to their traditional and contemporary music and dance mix. They have preformed throughout Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Denmark- Roskilde Festival); Malaysia; all across Canada (from the Vancouver Folk Fest to the Sky Dome in Toronto); and in the United States (1998 Olympics.Atlanta & 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City, Utah to the Grass Roots Festival, Trumansburg, New York 1997-2018).

The Sinquah Family Dance Troupe is an awe-inspiring, entertaining and educational family. Their ultimate goal is to inspire all youth to find a profession that will help their community.

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

 

Saturday June 29 & Sunday June 30 – Mohawk Village Memorial Park

9:30am – 4:30 pm

Archaeology

 

Ontario Archaeological Society and Archaeological Research Associates, Ltd.

 

Archaeology at the Woodland Cultural Centre is being undertaken as a pro-bono reconciliation project of the Ontario Archaeological Society and Archaeological Research Associates, Ltd. in partnership with the Woodland Cultural Centre, Save the Evidence Campaign and Mohawk Village Memorial Park.

Beginning in the spring of 2017, ARA and the OAS have managed the archaeological needs at the Woodland Cultural Centre and the Mohawk Village Memorial Park with volunteers from Six Nations, Mississaugas of the Credit, archaeological consulting firms, archaeological researchers and the general public.

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

 

Sunday June 30 – Main Stage

1pm – 2pm

James Wilson

 

Singer/Songwriter from Six Nations

 

James Wilson is a 21 year old singer/songwriter from the Six Nations of the Grand River. Wilson has performed at many venues and competitions around Canada and the United States. In 2017 he had the great opportunity to sing back-up for “Lorde” at the MMVA’s (Much Music Video Awards).

Currently Wilson is in the works of recording a full length album.

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ONKWEHÓN:WE FESTIVAL 2019

Friday June 28 – Main Stage

9pm-10pm

Lacey Hill

 

Folk, Blues, R&B ,Oneida Wolf Clan, Six Nations based Singer/Songwriter

 

A soulful musician, singer, and songwriter, Lacey Hill composes her music in Southern Ontario on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve. She grew up “down the bush” (slang for ‘on the reserve’) where her passion for singing emerged when she was just a toddler. For over a decade Lacey has honed her talents singing back up vocals and cover songs with local bands. But she wanted more, and since 2013 has taken centre stage with her own original acoustic music that blends folk and blues. Currently, Lacey is booking shows and hustling her new sophomore album “M” (released Feb. 2017 and available on iTunes!), all while expanding her local fan bases in Six Nations, Hamilton,Toronto, and beyond by conducting half-a-dozen shows a month.

Some of her exciting accomplishments include: Planet IndigenUS Showcase at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, ON; JUNO Music Crawl in Hamilton, ON; The Red Ride Tour at Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, ON; And most recently, her own CD release part at Kanata Village, Six Nations, on Feb. 2018. Lacey’s new album “M” (528 Vol. 2), released Feb. ’17 is available everywhere digital music is sold.

 

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2019 Onkwehón:we Festival Schedule

June 28-30 at the Woodland Cultural Centre

 

Friday June 28th

 

Saturday June 29th

Sunday June 30th

  • 12 PM – 6 PM Vendor Village
  • 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM Archeology
    Archaeology site
  • 10 AM – 4 PM Mural painting workshop (Aboriginal Legal)
    Front Fence
  • 12 PM – 3 PM Clay bead & Moccasin workshop
    Workshop Tent *drop in activity*
  • 12 PM – 6PM SAIL: Art making activity
    *Drop In* – Silver Trailer
  • 1 PM – 2 PM James Wilson
    Main Stage

    James Wilson

  • 1 PM – 5PM Red Pepper Spectacle Arts
    Site Wide

    Red Pepper Spectacle Arts

  • 2 PM – 3 PM Sinquah Family Dance Troupe
    Main Stage

    The Sinquah Family Dance Troupe

  • 3 PM – 4 PM Gerry Burning
    Main Stage
  • 4 PM – 6 PM Smoke Dance Contest & Social Dancing (ft Andy Thomas)
    Main stage

    Andy Thomas

  • All day *drop in* Identifying Traditional plant medicines
    Silver Trailer