A year-end update from the survivors’ secretariat searching the grounds of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford came with sobering news.
Analysis of new documents connected to the residential school, which was run by the Anglican Church from around 1830 to 1970, has identified 97 children whose deaths are tied to the institute.
That is more than double the 48 deaths previously identified by the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, according to Laura Arndt of Six Nations, who heads the secretariat.
“The final resting place of all 97 are not known,” secretariat spokesperson Tabitha Curley told The Spectator in an email.
“Some of these children died at the school. Others died at nearby hospitals or in their home communities after becoming ill or injured while attending the school, or under similar circumstances.”
The group’s research is aided by documents collected by Know History, a firm that specializes in Indigenous historical research. Thus far, the secretariat has reviewed 6,705 records from the Mohawk Institute and identified by name 4,581 former students and 725 staff members.
The ground search of the Mohawk Institute and surrounding property in Brantford continues using ground-penetrating radar. To date, the secretariat has scanned approximately 9.5 acres of the 607.5-acre search area, laid out in 10-by-10-metre grids.
Curley said secretariat members run two of the radar machines and Six Nations Police members use a third. It takes about 90 minutes to scan each grid, with operators making 42 passes in one direction and 42 more in a parallel direction.
“Which is around 1.5 kms of manually pushing the machine,” Curley said.
Scanning is limited to between May and November, as dry ground conditions are needed.
The next step is for experts in geophysics to analyze the data from the radar machines along with additional search data provided by the City of Brantford.
The secretariat has a new physical office at 2676 Fourth Line Rd. on Six Nations. Residential school survivors are welcome to drop by with written testimonials that can be left in a locked box outside the office.
Information about missing children and potential unmarked graves can also be submitted via a police tip line at 1-888-523-8587.
J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator