Friday, 17 June 2016

Six Nations Residential School: Compilation of Postings to this Blog

The whole matter of the Mohawk Institute, the residential school established for the Six Nations by the Anglican Church, is highly controversial here.  The "party line" is well known, with former attendees being labelled students, then "victims", then "survivors" of what came to be termed the "Mush Hole".  In reality it was the Chiefs who in 1838 requested the residential school be set up on Reserve land, and who in 1970 pleaded with the Canadian Government not to close down the school as it had served an important role in the education of those at Six Nations.  Elders told of seeing the school as a shelter from dysfunction at home, where at least they were fed and they learned something worthwhile.

However, despite these facts, many at Six Nations buy into the view that the Mohawk Institute was a place of horrors, where children were mistreated, murdered and tossed into mass graves, and other and unproven outlandish claims.  This view largely emerged out of the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" (TRC) which ultimately used some unfortunate situations in one part of Canada to paint broad strokes and demonize the entire system of education which gave many the entry into the wider world allowing them to make a success of their lives, not simply drifting back to a home community where dysfunction was the order of the day long before the introduction of residential schools.

Here follows the postings made to this blog about the subject of the Mohawk Institute; the rationale being that having all the information in one place rather than scattered among 200 postings would facilitate access to the data.  While there is overlap, each posting is categorized under the heading that seems to be most salient.

1) Detailed overview:  A recent comprehensive balanced look at the Mohawk Institute based on facts not beliefs - click here.

2)  General information:

 Click here for the earliest exploration into the matter on this blog.

3)  Hoaxer involvement:

For years now the Mohawk Institute has attracted hoaxers and those with an axe to grind - click here.  It is mind boggling that so many at Six Nations simply uncritically accepted these absurd allegations, then went about trying to convince all that the fantasy was the truth.  These hoaxes and the role of K.A. are woven into the links both above and below.

4)  Entrenched belief that murdered children buried around the Mohawk Institute:

There are many at Six Nations who are conspiracy theorists and believe that there are numerous bodies of children, murdered at the Mohawk Institute, that were cast out into mass graves - even to the extent of using ground penetrating radar to seek out these supposed remains.  The fact that only animal bone has been found does not deter the belief of many.  Click here to see evidence that the inevitable deaths at the Mohawk Institute (of disease) were dealt with sensitively, with the bodies being buried by the Anglican ministers in the cemetery at the Mohawk Chapel across the road from the Mohawk Institute.

5)  Residential School is used as a reason for the dysfunction at Six Nations:

Click here.  More of the blame game so prevalent at Six Nations.

6)  Involvement of lawyers and financial reward:

Click here.  Lawyers still trying to extract more money from the Government by encouraging more persons to hop on the gravy train, thereby enriching themselves and their "clients".

7)  Summary:  I am not speaking here about the situation in say Alberta since I have not sifted through the evidence, but only what happened at Six Nations, where I have explored the relevant data.

The Mohawk Institute, the residential school located physically on the Six Nations Reserve, was an educational institution supported by the Chiefs (and thus the Clan Mothers) from the year it opened (1838) to the year it closed (1970) when the elected Chiefs petitioned to allow it to remain open.  Most of the Six Nations teachers of the time were educated there, and it was here that many found a launching pad to success in the wider world.

With the TRC came an entire change in perception.  Those with a vested interest in portraying the Mohawk Institute in the same boat as the worst of the Residential Schools out west, came up with a catchy name, the "Mush Hole" to enhance the evil reputation they were intent on cultivating.  They collected "stories" or "recollections" from those who chose to come forth - but many didn't because they could not in all conscience depict their school, frequently recalled with fondness, in a way that would meet the wishes of the detractors who promised "compensation" if you would step forward and claim to be a "survivor".

People started coming out of the woodwork and all sorts of crazy theories surfaced (the mass graves being the most egregious) and ultimately for many it boiled down to how much money could be had by playing along and recalling horrible things (all of which happened at day school to those of us in earlier times) that could sound convincing to those wanting to compile examples of lurid experiences that could be tied to "school days".

The fact that the Ontario Government wishes to include the experiences (only the negative ones of course) in the Ontario school curriculum is a farce which will implant a false picture in the minds of children across the Province.  The grovelling apologies of officials in the Anglican Church and the various levels of Government (who clearly either did not have all the facts, or chose to be politically correct) was a positively sickening aspect of this business, as is the fact that there are those even outside Native circles who are profiting from the perpetuation of the party line, the truth being unimportant and an encumbrance.

I am very pleased that there is a move afoot to save the Mohawk Institute from demolition.  It has served many functions at Six Nations including housing a unique library of Six Nations culture, history and language that is in my opinion unparalleled.  What is galling is the the rationale for putting a new roof on the building, and ultimately restoring it, is to "save the evidence" - meaning that it will act as a testament to the residential schools era and include tours that will explain the horrid things that allegedly happened there.  It will then be somewhat similar to the old Kingston Penitentiary where tours through this historic structure are now being organized.  The big difference, however, is that the historical truth will be told at one (although likely from the guard's perspective), while the other will in all probability offer up only a skewed version of events that fit the political mold - a balanced consideration of all the facts and the truth being assiduously avoided.



  1. DeYo--have been briefly reviewing the 859-page Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) Volume 1, "The History, Part 2, 1939-2000" (December 2015). There are 37 references to the Mohawk Institute, some of which speak about the positives, e.g., two former students viewed the recreational activities as a plus (p. 490). Others covered the negatives, such as humiliating punishments (p. 546). The message that I took away is that some former students had mixed feelings about the Mohawk Institute; they recognized it benefitted them in some ways and not in others.

    On broader level, however, Part 2 includes a lot more about the constructive aspects of residential schools than was covered in the 382-page June 2015 TRC executive summary. For instance, on pages 92-94, there is coverage of why some aboriginal organizations lobbied to keep residential schools open, particularly if they were located on reserves.

    What bothers me is that the TRC spokespeople and most of the mainstream media have focussed on the negative aspects of the schools, despite the fact that in this more expansive history, there are quite a few encouraging stories told.

    On May 23-27, 2016, I published a three-part series entitled "Why I Think Canadian Aboriginal Integration is Better Than Parallelism or Assimilation." One of the themes of my series is that, despite colonization and the residential schools, some indigenous people have adapted and thrived in both worlds.

    This adaptation theme is much more apparent in Part 2, and I think it deserves far more scrutiny than it has been getting.

    1. Hello counterpoise. It seems that there is a "correct mind set" in relation to residential schools. It simplifies things by demonizing and generalizing. It would be a brave academic indeed who would do a critical analysis of the TRC. Free speach is a wonderful concept but it no longer exists in certain university departments where you have no choice but to tow the "party line".

      Agree with you re integration, although when I get angry I want nothing less than dismantling the Indian Act and dissolving the Reserves (the recommendations of Trudeau's 1969 "White Paper"). Until that happens the same issues and battles will be facing our grandchildren since I know that around here fact, evidence, and the truth will simply never wash - only spin, revisionism, and the romantic view of a past that never was.