Second Annual Survivors’ Gathering

Survivors’ Secretariat hosted its Second Annual Survivors of the Mohawk Institute Gathering on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory June 27-29th, 2023. This year’s event began on the 53rd Anniversary of the school’s closing (June 27th, 1970) and hosted approximately 100 Survivors from 17 impacted communities across Canada.   

This three-day gathering, hosted at Gathering Place by the Grand and Chiefswood Park, was devoted to the former students (or children/prisoners, however one may choose to describe their time at the school). The gathering served as an opportunity for Survivors to reconnect with their peers while sharing their insight into the investigation of unmarked burials and missing children by the Survivors’ Secretariat. 

During the first two days, Survivors’ Secretariat led discussions that provided first-hand updates related to the organization’s efforts to Uncover, Document and Share the truth about what happened at the Mohawk Institute during its 140+ years of operation. 

Mohawk Institue Survivors were engaged in informative and healing dialogue(s) provided by the Survivors’ Secretariat and our partners such as, Dr. Scott Hamilton – Lead Archeological Advisor, Know History Historical Services, Animikii Indigenous Technology, Parks Canada, Woodland Cultural Centre, Dr. Beverely Jacobs – Indigenous Human Rights, Peter Schuler – Cultural Monitor, Grandmother Renee – Invited Elder, Dawn Hill and Roberta Hill – Survivors’ Secretariat Board Members and others. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Commission was also on site to collect Survivors’ statements.  

As one can imagine, due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed, cultural and wellness support was also provided throughout the gathering. The Smudge Room and Scared Fire offered our attendees a place to relax, centre and heal.  Traditional medicines, refreshments and wellness support were readily available for all attendees and staff.  

On the evening of June 27th, 2023, Survivors enjoyed the “By the Grand Dinner Theatre” experience, hosted by Six Nations Tourism. Survivors and guests enjoyed a three-course, Indigenous inspired meal, while the Iroquois Sky Dancers performed a live showcase of Haudenosaunee music, dancing and traditional knowledge. 

The third and final day was open to Intergenerational Survivors and their families. This day was intended to celebrate the resilience of the Survivors’ and Indigenous peoples.  Cultural activities included traditional games, traditional jingle dress dancing, vendor booths, food trucks and family-oriented activities like mini putt, crafting, canoeing and kayaking. It was a beautiful day; we all came together to reconnect and honour each other.  

On behalf of the Survivors’ Secretariat, we would like to graciously thank all the Survivors who attended the gathering and for sharing your valuable insights and feedback. We honour the strength of your spirits and the courage it takes to discuss such sensitive subjects.   

To all the support persons, partners, Intergenerational Survivors’, families, volunteers and staff who attended – thank you for supporting our efforts. This year’s event was a success in commemorating what happened at the Mohawk Institute.  

Additionally, we would like to also acknowledge the Survivors’ who were unable to attend this year’s event due to the wildfires in Canada or for other reasons. We wish you well and look forward to seeing you next year!