Search for unmarked graves begins at former Mohawk Institute site in Ontario

The search for the unmarked graves of children who attended the Mohawk Institute, also known as the Mushhole began Tuesday in Brantford, Ont., using two ground-penetrating radar units.

The Survivors’ Secretariat from the Mohawk Institute has been working with a joint task force to organize a search of the grounds.

“Before we could start the GPR– our search today, the police task force assisted us by laying out the grids that will be followed by the searchers,” said Kim Murray, executive lead of the Survivors’ Secretariat at a news conference. “As noted, we have trained community members to operate the machines and we have two teams on site today.”

Police work on setting a grid for the search on the Mohawk Institute grounds. Photo: Allana McDougall/APTN.

According to Murray, the first search will last one week and a complete search plan will be finalized while other search areas will be prepared over the winter.

The secretariat said the search will be led by survivors.

Dawn Hill, Turtle Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River, attended the school with her family from 1957 to 1961.

“This was really important to us that all of the sudden, we’re in the forefront,” she told APTN News. “They’re keeping us informed. they’re not hiding things from us and that, it’s something that gives us more of a peace of mind that things are going to happen.

“And as you can see today, they are, they’re happening.”

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Murray said along with planning the search, the secretariat will be pushing for a release of records from the school.

“There are 14,000 records at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation that we do not have access to yet, and we are trying to get access to those records through an MOU,” said Murray. “Now, are those all the records? No, they’re not. We know that the TRC did not collect all the records from the federal government.

“We are open to having those conversations and then we will figure out how we will work together and then align the resources as necessary based upon what the plans are for that particular community and the survivors.”

Dawn Hill, Mohawk, Turtle Clan from Six Nations of the Grand River. Hill attended the Mohawk Institute with all her siblings from 1957 to 1961. Photo: Allana McDougall/APTN.

Approximately 200 hectares are associated with the Mohawk Institute, a church-run and government-funded school that operated for 136 years.

Officials say a criminal investigation into the findings of the search could take years to complete.

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