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UGDSB staff visit Woodland Cultural Centre to learn about residential schools, reconciliation

October 12, 2017

BRANTFORD, Ontario – On October 11, Upper Grand District School Board staff gathered at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford to get a firsthand look at residential schools and to learn about reconciliation.

The day began with a traditional smudging ceremony where staff were able purify the body and aura using the cleansing smoke of sage leaves.

UGDSB staff had the opportunity to share in a guided tour of the museum at the Woodland Cultural Centre, which covered Indigenous culture in North America throughout the years.

Woodland Cultural Centre Museum Tour

During an authentic Indigenous luncheon, staff took a virtual tour of The Mohawk Institute. The Mohawk Institute was an operational Residential School from July 1885 to June 1970 when it closed its doors. During the virtual tour, staff saw firsthand the stories of neglect, manual labour and abuse that Indigenous children endured while attending the school.

Woodland Cultural Centre Wampum Beads photo

Two residential school survivors spoke to staff about their experiences at The Mohawk Institute. Geronimo Henry attended The Mohawk Institute for 11 years. He spoke about how he spent these 11 years being hungry all time and some of the abuse endured. Henry spoke of discovering the nearby garbage dump and how the boys would get excited when they learned what day Weston Candy would bring their wasted food to the dump. Henry mentioned his struggle with alcohol when he finally left the institute and what it was like to rebuild family.

Beverly Albrecht spoke about her four years at The Mohawk Institute and what it was like to leave. Albrecht said that her experiences have taught her that there is nothing more important in life than family and how it is not enough to just talk, having face-to-face time with family is the greatest gift. Albrecht has dedicated her life to counselling and helping others.

Geronimo Henry and Beverly Albrecht

The day’s events helped staff see directly the importance of reconciliation and how the stories of the survivors need to be heard to help people understand what happened in residential schools.

When The Mohawk Institute closed, the Woodland Cultural Centre opened on the site in 1972 to serve as a reminder, act as a research facility and a place to learn the history of the property. Due to significant damage, The Mohawk Institute building is being restored for educational purposes.

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