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Brantford, ON – Weekly Report – July 22-26, 2019

August 6, 2019

MDS REPORT – 3rd WEEK – volunteer group from Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford BC

This week was similar in format and work as last week, but with a lot smaller group. Our new cooks, Ginny and Herb Buckwalter from Toronto joined us this week. We also have our regular MCC partners working with us, Mim, Kandace, Isaac and Lyndsay, from the MCC Indigenous Neighbours Program, who also facilitate the weekly Blanket exercise, evening talking circles, weekly Wed evening cultural event and any counselling required related to the indigenous learning component. We had another interesting and productive week.

One of our Youth volunteers, Emma Nickel from Emmanuel Mennonite Church, Abbotsford BC, wrote about her impressions of the week.

MDS trips are an opportunity. For me, that opportunity meant a long plane ride and lots of books before we arrived in Brantford to work at the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School. The first day of the trip was just ravelling. A flight from Abbotsford, B.C to Calgary, AB quickly followed another flight to Hamilton, ON.

The second day was intense as the morning was planned as an orientation with a tour through the museum at the Woodland Cultural Centre, where the former residential school is located, and listening to a survivor. It was really powerful to hear these stories and be there. You could feel all the mixed emotions in the air. For the afternoon and the next day, we worked between building furniture, and in my case, sorting books in the library and archives. The thing is, the library and archives are in the school. So, it was unsettling to be in there. It was like the ghosts of the children were watching. Everyone agrees that the former school building makes people unsettled.

On Wednesday, we did a day-long archeological dig on the grounds. It was nice to be in the sun. We found lots of cool things like a clay marble, broken glass and even a piece of stone that was chipped off to make a stone tool. It was most likely thousands of years old.

During the week we heard many survivor stories and learned much about the culture. The emotions surrounding these words and traditions are astounding. It mad me sad that kids like me were forced into horrible things that hurt them so much. I’m angry it happened, but I’m also hopeful. More people are learning about the residential schools and what happened behind closed doors, and even more people will learn through what we have been doing with MDS. And that gives me hope.