The infamous Mohawk Institute was an Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ontario, which operated for over a century, finally closing its doors for good in 1969. Earlier this month, students of Elizabeth Wyn Wood Alternative School in Ottawa commemorated the children whose lives were lost as a result of attending the “Mush Hole”, as the institute was known to generations of students. (Click on image to see the set description, click here to see the slideshow.)
Students from art teacher Emily Park’s classroom joined with others students to participate in Project of Heart. The five-part learning module saw students research contemporary Mohawk artists, and, as part of the social justice component of the unit, students learned about the students of Attawapiskat and their struggle to get a commitment from Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl to build a new school.
The Wyn Wood students signed a petition created by the Attawapiskat students calling for federal action on this basic children’s right…the right to an education on par with the rest of Canadian students.
Culminating the morning’s program was a commemoration ceremony overseen by Mohawk Traditional Teacher Paul Skanks. Paul is of the Turtle Clan and is a band member of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Quebec. Grandfather Paul provided a teaching of the Thanksgiving Address for the students and also taught them to greet each other in Mohawk. Participants experienced a “smudging” before Paul smudged and offered tobacco for the newly decorated wooden tiles. Joining the students in the ceremony was Grandmother Arlo Fayant, a Cree from Peepeekisis First Nation in southern Saskatchewan. Fayant was the first member of her family — for four generations– to be spared the IRS experience.