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Brantford, ON – Weekly Report – July 8-12, 2019

July 16, 2019

MDS REPORT – 1st WEEK – volunteer groups from Avon, Stirling and St Jacobs ON Mennonite Churches

  • We have 4 main components to our work at the Woodland Cultural Centre
    • Repairing a Mohawk Longhouse that will be used then for our school furniture building, our 2nd component. The Longhouse was completed.
    • Period school furniture from early 1900’s – a dozen school desks, 8 cafeteria tables and 16 benches & miscel benches to be built. 3 school benches were completed along with preparing other furniture pieces
    • Relocate school library, public and rare book collection/archives back into the school building – this is an on going project with assembling book shelves, moving a lot of boxes of books from storage and filling and filing of many books
    • Participate in an archaeological dig on the school grounds (Wed) – digging test pits and screening for artifacts
  • The week started with a ceremonial Six Nations opening and half day orientation through a museum tour, school tour and a virtual tour and meeting a residential school survivor. In order to understand the effect of the residential school system, one first has to understand the indigenous culture. Wed evenings is a cultural evening, another chance to experience the Six Nations cultural, an indigenous dance workshop, along with a potluck supper shared with survivors, staff and visitors. The week finished with a ceremonial Six Nations closing. The volunteers accomplished a lot of work, appreciation of the indigenous culture and learned about the many wrongs dealt to the indigenous inhabitants, as well as building many new relationships. MCCO staff facilitated evening “talking circles” to share impressions, feelings and experiences.

One of our Youth volunteers, Laura Wagler from the Avon Mennonite Church in Stratford, ON, one of 3 churches represented the 1st week, wrote about her impressions of the week.

For our youth service trip we went to the Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC) in Brantford, which is the location of the first residential school to open in Ontario. Our job was to help the staff with different tasks so they can open the school as a memorial in 2020. Our trip went from July 7-12. There were 16 volunteers in our group. 10 youth and 6 adults from Stirling Mennonite church, St. Jacobs Mennonite church, and Avon Mennonite church.

 This week we helped organize the library and move lots of boxes of books. This was very special because of the vast collection of historical books we had the pleasure to handle, it’s amazing how much history they have preserved here. We also helped finish the roof of the longhouse and level it, go on an archeological dig in the back field and build school desks. But when I look back at the week, my favourite and most memorable experiences were with the community here. We met 2 residential school survivors, Karen and Geronimo who were so kind to open up and share about their experiences whilst attending the residential school. We met Mim, with MCCO, who taught us about different indigenous traditions. She also helped the group break out of their shells and share their feelings and experiences with each other during our indigenous talking circles. We met Evan, from the WCC staff, who taught us 4 different indigenous dances and their meanings, which ultimately allowed us to break down the barriers between each other and have fun together. We met Lindsay, from the WCC Museum staff, who gave us a very informative tour of the museum, and taught us about the indigenous culture and how large of an impact the residential school system had on their people. She allowed our group to ask as many questions as we wanted, which gave us new knowledge and appreciation for the history here.

 I am sure that there are so many more stories that the rest of the group could share, but these 4 stood out to me the most when I looked back at the week and they will always hold a special place in my heart.