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Timeline: The search for graves at the former Mohawk Institute




A TV version of this story will air Friday at 5 p.m. on CTV Kitchener as part of our National Day for Truth and Reconciliation special. It will also be available online following the broadcast.

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

It’s been over a year since news of a mass grave uncovered at a former B.C. residential school put reconciliation in the spotlight across Canada and here in Ontario where Canada’s longest-running residential school was located.

Over the past year, survivors of The Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford have recalled the horrors experienced at the institution.

They've also pushed for a criminal investigation in addition to a search for unmarked graves on school grounds. The Mohawk Institute was in operation from July 1, 1885, to June 27, 1970.

“Deep inside, I’m still hurting like it was just yesterday... it doesn’t go away,” survivor Geronimo Henry said during a memorial held at the former Mohawk Institute on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, 2021.

Less than one month later, preparations for a search of the school grounds began.

Before the site, now home to the Woodland Cultural Centre, could be investigated, a special task force had to be trained to use the ground penetrating radar technology.

“When children died, we were never told what happened to them. We believe some of them died as a result of the actions of the staff and these deaths are highly suspicious,” said survivor Dawn Hill.

In November 2021, the search began.

Roughly a year later, the ground search is ongoing.

The Survivors Secretariat, the group leading the investigation, now says through records they can confirm a total of 97 deaths tied to the former Mohawk Institute.

The toll is more than double what the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation initially reported.

“I think we can safely anticipate that we're going to continue to hear and see in the records that children died,” Laura Arndt, lead of the Survivors Secretariat said earlier this month.

Residential school survivor Roberta Hill called the rising death toll heartbreaking and shocking.

“How could so many children pass away in a residential school? We didn’t go to school to die,” said Hill in September of 2022.

The Survivors Secretariat said they searched about 9.5 acres, which accounts for about 1.5 per cent of the grounds.

As the country marks the second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, survivors are hopeful the children who died at the school will finally be able to go home.

“Why not give the families some peace of mind and say ‘here’s where your relative is,’” said Hill.

Support for is available for residential school survivors and those affected by the ongoing legacy of residential schools.

The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line can be reached 24-hours a day, 7-days a week at 1-866-925-4419. Top Stories

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