By Victoria Gray
The body of an adolescent was uncovered on the historical property of the Mohawk Institute Residential School.
Dr. Beverly Jacobs, Indigenous Human Rights Monitor with the Survivors’ Secretariat said the unmarked grave was discovered near Glenwood Drive in Brantford, by workers digging to install a telephone line in August of 2020.
“I have a lot of questions, like you do, like everybody does. I think it’s just until we get more answers, it’s difficult right now. So, I guess until we have more answers then it’s knowing what our next steps are.”
After the discovery the matter was referred to the Survivors Secretariat because the former residential school did own that property. The coroner’s office is investigating to find out what happened to that child and if that child was a student at the former residential school.
“The Office of the Chief Coroner is working with experts currently engaged with the burial site in Brantford and will apply a principled, respectful and thorough investigation to try to find answers regarding who this young person is, why and how they came to be at this site,” Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario said.
Jacobs didn’t think discoveries would happen as soon as it has and she wasn’t emotionally prepared for it.
“I wasn’t prepared, to find (remains) already… We just got started and the intention was to do a planned search of the grounds using the ground penetrating radar, and you know to do that process. We just started the training with the police task force, so I wasn’t expecting that,” she said.
Jacobs said the police are not involved yet and won’t be until the coroner determines the cause of death, the possible date of death and if that child was a student at the residential school.
“This is a child that has been found. A full and proper death investigation is required to determine who this child is and how they came to be buried in this location. This child deserves respect; they need a name and we need to remember they were a child and their family needs to know what happened.” Roberta Hill, a survivor of the Mohawk Institute said.
The body has not been exhumed yet and the secretariat is asking for privacy and patience when it comes to answers to the question they all have.
“We must honour and respect the spirit of this child so this move to a death and potential criminal investigation through the coroner’s office and the Task Force is very important,” Jacobs said. “The human rights violations that have occurred to residential school children must give rise to reparations and justice. This first investigation is just the beginning.”
Six Nations Police and Brantford Police have not returned Turtle Island News requests for comment.
The Mohawk Institute was the first and longest running Indian Residential School in Canada. Indigenous children from more than 20 First Nations were impacted during the 136 years the Mohawk
Institute was in operation. The school operated o more than 500 acres that now span farm land, factories and much more.
There are at least 59 children whose deaths were recorded during the time the school operated, but there is no record of what happened to their remains.
For more information about the secretariat and its investigation visit https://www.survivorssecretariat.ca/.