Mennonite youth renovate old residential school in the name of reconciliaction

A project meant to teach Mennonite youth carpentry skills and raise social awareness has wrapped up at the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School.

Clarice Shen is a Mennonite volunteer and one of 50 youth from Ontario and British Columbia who helped to build benches, dining tables and desks for the former residential school, which sits on the property where the Woodland Cultural Centre is located in Brantford, Ont.

Shen said working at the school, and hearing the stories, was a great learning experience.

“It’s something that I’ve always been interested in, I’m trying to learn more about indigenous history, Canada’s role in it and trying to think about what I can do as a person,” she said.

(Some of the artifacts found on the old school’s site. Photo: Annette Francis/APTN)

The month-long project is the result of a partnership between the Mohawk Cultural Institute and the Mennonite Disaster Service.

Jason Deng is happy he had the opportunity to take part in the renovation project as well.

“I think its important because we need to spread awareness about the things that Canada’s done about the Indigenous people, and there are still quite a lot of people who aren’t fully aware,” said Deng.

The Mohawk Residential School operated from 1828 to 1970.

After a storm severely damaged the building five ago, the community of Six Nations of the Grand River voted to have it restored.

According to Carley Gallant-Jenkins, the outreach coordinator of the Woodland Cultural Centre, the restorations have been a huge undertaking.

“What’s left are the major things, masonry work on the exterior of the building and windows, so those are two large elements of the mechanical upgrades that we are still in the process of.

According to Gallant-Jenkins, the goal is to be open to the public by June 2020.