SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER, May 24, 2022 – The Survivors’ Secretariat welcomed visitors at the Mohawk Village Memorial Park for a commemorative apple tree planting event and press conference. The event was hosted in partnership with the Mohawk Village Memorial Park committee, Forest Ontario and Kayanase Ecological Restoration. Together the group planted 10 apple trees near the location of the Mohawk Institute’s former apple orchard.
Two residential school survivors Roberta Hill and Geronimo Henry, recounted their personal experience about the significance of the apple trees. The pair explained how the male children were required to tend the orchard, fields and farms of the Institute but were never able to eat the fruits of their labour. The event took place just days before the one-year anniversary of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation’s announcement of their findings of 215 unmarked burials at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
The commemorative tree planting is one of the planned installations in the Mohawk Village Memorial Park. The park was created to honour the children and Survivors of the Mohawk Institute and provide a place for their families to grieve what they lost over the 136-year history of its operation.
About Survivors’ Secretariat
The Survivors’ Secretariat is a Survivor-led initiative established in 2021. The Secretariat coordinates protocols and processes associated with the death investigation and facilitates the gathering of community and Survivor statements as they work to document and share the truth about what happened at the Mohawk Institute during its 136 years of operation. Visit: www.survivorssecretariat.ca.
About Mohawk Village Memorial Park
The Mohawk Village Memorial Park is a federally registered not-for-profit organization with charitable status. The Board is voluntary and includes Survivors of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School and inter-generational descendants. The Mohawk Village Memorial Park’s mission is to develop and maintain the memorial park to honour the children who attended the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School. Visit: www.mohawkvillagepark.com
Kayanase is an ecological restoration and native plant and seed business, dedicated to improving the health of Mother Earth using science-based approaches and Traditional Ecological knowledge. Our Mission is to restore the health and beauty of Mother Earth, using science- based approaches and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). Visit www.kayanase.ca
About Forests Ontario & Forest Recovery Canada
Forests Ontario is a leading charity dedicated to greening the communities in which we live work, and play. Our ambitious large-scale forest restoration programs, extensive educational programs, and decades of community outreach result in millions of trees being planted each year. Together with our national division, Forest Recovery Canada, we work with our many partners across the country to plant the right tree in the right place for the right reason, ensuring our efforts today thrive and grow into healthy, diverse forests of tomorrow, and for generations to come. Forests Ontario is the voice for our forests. Visit www.forestsontario.ca or follow us @Forests_Ontario to find out more.
Today’s events recognized the experiences of so many children that had to work in those fields, and never received the benefit of the harvest. The Secretariat believes it is important to continue to support events of this nature to create a safe space for Survivors to share their truths with the public.
Executive Lead for the Survivors’ Secretariat.
By planting this apple tree, the apples of which all will be able to enjoy, the Survivor’s Secretariat is commemorating the children who were taken to the Mohawk institute and labored in the orchard that was here. The abuse suffered by these children is unforgiveable. That is why we remain committed to supporting efforts like these: to uncover this truth and commemorate the innocent children who never returned to their loved ones and communities.
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relation
Given the City of Brantford’s proximity to the largest population of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and our shared grief for victims of the Indian Residential School System as well as Survivors and their families, I am honoured to be part of this important event to demonstrate the City’s support of the work of the Survivors’ Secretariat. I am also very proud of Brantford City Council’s unanimous support to call on the Federal and Provincial governments as well as the Anglican Church, to follow the City’s example and immediately release all documents related to the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School, to the Survivors’ Secretariat.
Mayor Kevin Davis
City of Brantford
It is an honour and a privilege to be invited to participate in this commemorative ceremony. I recognize the significance of planting the apple tree as a symbol of resilience, growth, and hope moving forward. The painful legacy of the residential school system continues, and I acknowledge the difficult healing journey of all Survivors and families affected. The ongoing efforts and commitment by the Survivor’s Secretariat and the Police Task Force is commendable. The OPP remains committed to establishing trust, and building and improving relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities.
Forests Ontario is honoured to take part in today’s event, and we would like to thank Kayanase for this growing relationship,” said Elizabeth Celanowicz, Forests Ontario’s Chief Operating Officer. “Our Reconciliation Community Tree Plant program began in 2020, and we have been privileged to work in partnership with First Nations communities and organizations across the province to create communal green spaces that are inspired by reflection and recovery among nature.
Notes for Media
Speakers at the Press Conference (In order of appearance)
- Amos Key – Emcee
- Jagger Miller – Thanksgiving Address
- Roberta Hill – Residential School Survivor
- Geronimo Henry – Residential School Survivor
- Chief Mark B. Hill – Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council
- Chief Stacey Laforme – Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
- Youth Poem Presentation – Everlasting Tree School
- Sherlene Bomberry – Residential School Survivor
Dignitaries in Attendance
- Chief Mark Hill – Six Nations of the Grand River
- Chief Stacey Laforme – Mississauga of the Credit First Nation
- Honourable Marc Miller – Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations Canada
- His Worship, Kevin Davis – Mayor of the City of Brantford
- Constable Arnold Jacobs – Six Nations Police
- Chief Darren Montour – Brantford Police
- Erin Montour – Kayanase
- Emily Hart – Forests Ontario
- Invited Residential School Survivors
- Students from Everlasting Tree School – Six Nations, Belleview and Princess Elizabeth Public School
- Grand Erie District School Board
- BRISC crisis intervention workers