50th Anniversary of the Closure of the Mohawk Institute Residential School
The Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School operated in Brantford, Ontario from 1828 to 1970. 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.
This month marks the 50th anniversary for the last students that would ever attend the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Photo: Newspaper Article September 27 1970, The Hamilton Spectator www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/
There are many archives, and a full narrative of the schools timeline, published by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. However, one of the best ways to truly understand the history of residential schools is from the Survivors themselves.
Sherlene Bomberry, marks her 50th anniversary of leaving the Mohawk Institute, as the last class of 1970.
She shared this photo of her when she left the school at the age of 14. You can also watch her video below , sharing some of the moments from her interview. She wrote a piece for us to publish on our website to honour all those who attended over the years. We couldn’t have found a better way to acknowledge this moment in history. Nya:weh Sherlene.
“Sge:no swagwego! Ewehehewi ne gya:soh. Otahyoni: niwagehsyaode. Gayogoho:no nigohwejode. From and lives on the Six Nations of the Grand.
Fifty years ago, June 1970, I left the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, ON at the age of 14 passing into grade 9. The Residential School closed its doors as a school but inside I left with many years of generational trauma and secrets. In September 1966, CAS apprehended myself and three siblings from my mom and baby sister. We ranged in ages of 10, 8, 7 & 5. Separated with boys on one side and girls on the other. Those were the loneliest times of my young life.
Three children have chosen me as their mom, and twelve grand babies and one great grandson.
Twenty years ago I took off this coat of shame and guilt and admitted yes I was in that Residential School. That was a heavy coat to wear and I am very grateful for all who have come in my path to guide, support, and encourage me to connect to Who I Am and Where I came from. I’ve fostered and enhanced my personal and professional growth to breaking cycles and moving forward. I am Proud of Me!! No regrets to my past as I respect my healing journey through past and future generations.
With only a few more days left in the Giving Challenge to win the $20,000 prize, that money would be used to travel to surrounding communities and record more of these Survivor stories and document their truths and pass them on the future generations.
Please share this post and ask others to Donate to the “Save the Evidence” Campaign.
On September 30, 1973, just 50 years ago, six-year-old Phyllis Webstad’s new orange shirt was taken away from her on her first day of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia. That act has come to symbolize how Indigenous culture has been stolen from generations of Indigenous Peoples, Communities and Nations across Canada, and the lasting damage this has caused. As Mohawk Institute Survivor Tony Bomberry reminds us, “residential school is the only school where you didn’t graduate – you survived.” Sadly, we know not all children who were brought to the Institute did survive. The National Day of Truth and Reconciliation provides the chance to reflect on this history and how the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples can be healed. It is not easy, and it will take time, but it is possible, provided there is a willingness to understand the hurt of the past and see the possibility of a new relationship. Truth requires the recognition of a dark history and its on-going impacts. Reconciliation (or as Metis Scholar David Garneau has pointed out the more appropriate term “conciliation”), requires an awareness and appreciation of “the other.” The word “Canada” comes from the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) word kaná:ta meaning a village. Based in a Rotinonhsyón:ni (Hodinohsho:ni) worldview, it means that everyone has a role and responsibility, that everyone is cared for, that no one goes without, and that we keep each other safe and maintain peace in our community. While the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada has often been at odds with the spirit of the word kaná:ta, at Woodland Cultural Centre we are grateful to all who are helping build a kinder, more inclusive, and just future for this territory. My hope is that we will all find truth and conciliation in kaná:ta. Heather GeorgeExecutive DirectorWoodland Cultural Centre#TruthandConciliation ... See MoreSee Less