OPP to support Six Nations Police investigation into residential school deaths

Six Nations Police is launching an investigation into children’s deaths at a former residential school in Brantford, with the support of provincial police.

The First Nations police service said in a July 28 release that an investigation into unaccounted for deaths at the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, one of Canada’s oldest and longest-running residential schools, is in “preliminary stages of planning.”

“The survivors wish police to investigate the deaths of their fellow students and find where they are buried,” the release reads.

The police service said on Wednesday it is requesting help from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and neighbouring Brantford police “due to scope and magnitude of this forthcoming investigation.”

In an email to The Spectator, OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said they are “definitely agreeing to support the investigation.” Dickson said provincial police received an emailed letter from Chief of Six Nations Police Darren Montour on July 23 asking for “investigative assistance into incidents of abuse and deaths” at the Mohawk Institute, and help locating unmarked graves.

“The OPP will be meeting with the Six Nations Police Service and Brantford police to determine the next steps forward,” he said.

The timing of the discussions is unknown.

Thousands of children passed through the institute’s doors in its 142-year history. Some, it is believed, never left. Six Nations says records indicate there were at least 54 deaths at the institute, but some experts say poor record-keeping means there are likely more.

The investigation comes at the request of a newly created “survivor secretariat,” established to co-ordinate ground-search efforts, calling on the local force to conduct a criminal investigation into missing residential school children — some of whom they believe died as a result of the actions of the staff.

Survivors read a letter addressed to the chief of police at a July 21 news conference.

Six Nations elected council announced the same day $1-million in “interim funding” to search the grounds.

Timeline: Mohawk Institute residential school

1828

Facility opened by the New England Company (NEC) as a day school for boys.

1834

Facility begins to accept boarders, initially 14 students.

1859

Building rebuilt to hold 60 students after a fire in the late 1850s.

1867

Canadian Confederation.

1868

By the late 1860s, the facility housed 90 students.

1872

NEC hires first full-time superintendent of the Mohawk Institute.

1876

Government gains more control over the Mohawk Institute with per capita grants for students through the Indian Act.

1903

Main building destroyed in fire set by students.

1904

School rebuilt to house 125 students.

1914

Superintendent Nelles Ashton taken to court by a parent and fined $400 for the treatment of three female students, one of whom was whipped on the back with rawhide.

1949

25 girls ran away; 10 left again after they were brought back.

1955

Mohawk Institute has 185 students, the highest recorded enrolment in its history.

1970

Mohawk Institute closed.

2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes for Canada’s residential school system.

2010

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) search of the area between the Woodland Cultural Centre and Mohawk Street.

2015

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) report released, describes residential school system as a project of “cultural genocide.”

2017

Archaeological assessments initiated around building, in area between the girls’ entrance and Mohawk Street.