Posted by: Dan | March 12, 2017

“A Faceless People On This Land”: Exploring the Christian History of the Mohawk Institute

Introduction: “A Magnificent Work”

On November 6, 1944, the Most Reverend P. Carrington, Archbishop of Québec and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Canada, wrote to the Secretary of Indian Affairs to express his dismay that the federal government was considering altering the dynamics of the Mohawk Institute – a residential school for Indigenous children located on the Six Nations reserve outside of Brantford, Ontario.    For a century, the school Principals had been Anglican clergymen nominated by the New England Company (NEC) or the Anglican Diocese of Huron but the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) was seeking to change that.[1]  Archbishop Carrington writes:

I am informed that the Department is considering the idea of radically changing the whole character of the School by putting it under a Layman as a Principal…

I was very much shocked when I heard of this proposal to bring to an end a religious and educational tradition which has been established for so long, and I am sure that Anglicans generally throughout Canada would hear of this decision with regret and amazement.[2]

Other letters followed.  This Bishop of the Arctic argues that the Anglicans have an “intimate knowledge of our native people” and know that they require schooling in a spiritual environment.[3]  The Bishop of Ottawa follows suit.[4]  The Bishops of Athabasca and New Westminster emphasize the remarkably good work Anglicans are already doing at the Institute, and the Bishop of Niagara along with the Bishop of Brandon emphasizes what a loss any change would be to the Indians.[5]  The Bishop of Caledonia waxes eloquent: “let a magnificent work alone.”[6]  The Bishop of Ontario is not far behind him.[7]  Others are more threatening.  The Bishop of Keewatin warns that any change would “stir serious misgivings among the members of the Church of England in Canada” and the Bishop of Edmonton suggests the same.[8]  The Bishop of British Columbia uses words like “aggressive” and “militant” when speaking of how Anglicans will react if changes are made.[9]

In the following months, the Anglicans were able to utilize their connections with the Press to produce articles that presented their concerns as concerns for all Canadians.[10]  However, the Government did not surrender.  In June, 1945, Indian Affairs hired Joseph Hill, an Indigenous man from Six Nations, as Principal.  The Anglicans were appalled – not only because Hill was a layperson but also because he was an Indian.[11]  Hill’s tenure was short-lived. Due to a persistent attack on multiple fronts, the Anglicans were able to have their candidate, Reverend Canon C. J. Zimmerman, replace the Principal the following month.[12]  Zimmerman would remain Principal for the next twenty-five years.[13]  Along the way, he earned the nickname “Skin” because of the delight the students said he took in stripping children naked and placing them in vulnerable positions, before beating them and humiliating them in front of their peers.[14]  Renowned for his cruelty, he once tied a runaway boy down on a picnic table and publicly whipped him so badly that the boys’ screams could heard at the surrounding farms.[15]  Zimmerman also raped some of the children, although how many is hard to determine.[16]

This kind of behavior was well-established for Principals of the Mohawk Institute.   Zimmerman, in every way, embodied the Anglican British and Canadian approach to Indigenous peoples during the time of the Mohawk Institute.[17]  This is not to suggest that Anglicans were more at fault than other Christians.  Zimmerman and the Mohawk Institute are illustrative, more generally, of the history of Christianity in the occupied territories of Turtle Island that came to be called Canada.[18]  Here, Christianity has been a central element of colonization, residential schools have been one key component of this, and the Mohawk Institute, is but one example. [19]  However, as Canada’s oldest and longest running residential school, and the school John A. MacDonald selected as a model to be emulated, the history of the Institute is particularly paradigmatic of the history of Christianity in Canada.[20]  Therefore, in this paper, I will do the following: In Part One, I will provide a very brief historical survey of the Mohawk Institute.  In Part Two, I will examine the admissions process and the conditions of the school.  Part Three will examine the Christian theology and liturgies undergirding the school’s violent practices.  I will then conclude with a few remarks on some of the apologies that took place after the schools were closed.

  1. 1784-1970: Preparation to Closure

In 1784, Joseph Brant and two thousand of the Six Nations inhabitants moved from the Finger Lakes region of New York State to land by the Grand River in present day Ontario. [21] This land was granted to them by the British Crown in return for their military service during the American Revolution.  Brant brought two things with him that prepared the way for the Mohawk Institute: an appreciation of European educational institutions and a strong connection to both the British Crown and the Anglican Church.[22] As a part of the resettlement, Brant made the British promise to provide a school in the Mohawk village and an annual allowance of twenty Pounds to employ Mohawk teachers.  This school opened in 1786, but it was short-lived because the Crown failed to follow through on its financial commitment.[23]  After another failed effort to establish a day school, a Mohawk delegation went to England in 1822, and the NEC then promised to establish a school and an Anglican mission on the Grand River.[24]  In 1827, the NEC sent Robert Lugger, an Anglican Priest, to the Six Nations and he immediately founded day schools.[25]  In 1831, he focused his energy on creating a “Mechanic’s Institution” at the Mohawk site.[26]  At this point, Lugger lost most of his support from the Mohawks because he began to teach a curriculum that was opposed to their wishes.[27]  This split escalated and, in 1834, a residential school, which provided board and lodging for ten boys and four girls from the Six Nations, was completed.[28]

Thus began what became the Mohawk Institute.  In 1836, Lugger was replaced by Abram Nelles who expanded the school and made it into the institution John A. MacDonald used as a model for residential schools across Canada.[29]  Nelles was replaced by Robert Ashton (Principal from 1872-1911) and then Robert’s son, A. Nelles Ashton (1911-1914).[30]  The Ashtons imposed a military-style regimen upon the school, and negotiated the transition from British to Canadian governments. [31] One of the first results of this was that the Institute began accepting Indigenous children from Nations other than the Six Nations.[32]  Then, in 1891, the Government began providing per capita grants to the school.[33]  Government involvement further increased in 1911, when the DIA signed a new agreement with the NEC.[34]  Shortly thereafter, Cyril Turnell replaced Ashton  (1915) but he quickly fired for being too kind (1918).[35]  He was replaced by Mrs. Boyce who acted as Principal from 1918 until 1922, at which point she married and resigned so that her new husband, Sydney Rogers, could take the position.[36]  Immediately prior to this, in 1920-1921, the DIA gained further control over the operations of the school while the Anglican Church of Canada, along with the Diocese of Huron, gained the ability to select the Principal.[37]  Rogers was Principal from 1922-1929.[38]  In 1929, he and Mrs. Rogers were forced to resign because he had purchased a farm next to the school and was using the students as labour (as well as using equipment and seed from the school) and he had been arrested for drunk driving and was reported to be drunk regularly.[39] Horace W. Snell was selected to replace Rogers and ran the school from 1929-1945.[40]  Robert Hoey, Secretary of Welfare and Training, raised concerns about Snell’s competence, but Snell remained Principal until he was retired at 65.  The Zimmerman feud then took place.[41]  Residential schools were waning, but the Anglicans fought to keep the Institute open.[42]  However, a combination of “the sixties scoop” and the opening of day schools for Indigenous children in Québec ensured its closure in 1970.[43]

Many of the students who survived were unable to speak about their experiences.  Others, who did speak, were unable to do so for decades.  It is reported that when the first survivors’ groups began to gather, nobody shared for the first five years—all they could do was cry.[44]  We will explore why this was the case.

  1. Admissions and Conditions

Residential schools existed to transform Indigenous children into Canadians with British values and Christian religion.[45]  This twofold process of destruction (of Indigenous identity, culture, spirituality, and language) and reconstruction (of Canadian identity, British culture, Christian religion, and English language) began immediately upon admission to the school.  A memo from local Superintendent Randle illustrates this point well.   Randle lists the new arrivals by name: “Gary Ronald Hill, Marion Rebecca Hill, Carolyn Ann Jacobs, Lorne Gibson, Milford Gibson, Barbara Louise Hill, Pauline Joan Henry” but then lists the discharges by number: “No. 1296, 1309, 1313, 1314, 01307, 01317, 01334, 01342, 01360, 01185, 01224, 012363, 01272, 01275, 01328, 01341, 01343, 01284.”[46]  Upon intake, students were stripped of their identity and, from then on, became numbers.[47]  They were also required to surrender all of their personal possessions, including clothing, receive a uniform, have a full medical, get their hair shaved or cut into a bob, and have their scalp burned by a delousing solution prevented them from sleeping the first night.[48]  Speaking any language but English was forbidden (even though most knew little or no English upon arrival).[49]  If children spoke Indigenous languages, they were physically punished.[50]  If siblings arrived together, they were assigned non-consecutive numbers in order to ensure that they would be separated from each other.[51]  Any contact with outside family was denied for the first two years.  After that, fifteen minute visits were allowed once per month if: (a) staff could supervise the visit; (b) only English was spoken; and (c) if the child had exhibited no bad behavior that month.[52]

This was not a very appealing arrangement for Indigenous families, and given other ongoing negative conditions, it became difficult for the schools to convince parents to surrender their children.  Therefore, in 1919, John A. MacDonald increased enforcement related to mandatory attendance.[53]  If parents refused to send their children they could be jailed, have food rations withheld by the local Indian Agent or, if the RCMP came to collect the child and the parents resisted, they could be shot and killed.[54]  Appeals to have children returned fell on deaf ears.[55]  From families or communities of care, children were transferred into the care of staff members who were overworked, under-educated, underpaid, lived in cramped conditions, and who sometimes were “vagrants” taken off of the street because nobody else wanted the job.[56]

The building itself was in a constant state of disrepair due to poor management and chronic underfunding.  Leaking roofs and the loss of hot water were common.[57]  The threat of fire and the inability of the school to meet fire regulations were ongoing issues.[58]  The heater was constantly breaking down (in 1922 the radiators actually froze).  Being a student meant being cold.[59]  The inadequate clothing and bedding provided to the children exacerbated this.[60]  The showers (administered to the boys every three days) were also cold.  If a boy refused to wash, he could be beaten with a brass-studded belt.[61]  Girls bathed every three days and the same tub was used for all of them.  If girls were overly dirty on non-bath days, they were sometimes punished with scalding water.[62]

Students were numbered like inmates, and much of the space was structured like a prison.[63]  After the government started sending more students from greater distances, overcrowding became an ongoing problem.[64]  Certain areas were reserved for staff use only.[65]  Bars and heavy screens were placed on windows, fire escape doors were alarmed, the girls were only allowed outside in a fenced-in play area for one half hour per day, and the ceilings of the lower floors were raised in order to discourage older kids breaking out and scaling down the building.[66]  The children were to be locked in their dorms at night.[67]  As for free time and recreation equipment, the girls had one makeshift swing in their outside play area, and the playrooms (used every evening) were empty.[68]

Within this environment, the children were expected to perform daily physical labour.  Classroom education took up three hours of the day.[69]  Most of the time was spent doing chores.[70]  The boys were farm labourers (working the fields, caring for the cows, tending to the pigs and, eventually, looking after the hens).[71]  Girls performed domestic duties – sewing, preparing food, laundry, and cleaning.  Other duties included maintaining the boiler and carting coal in the winter, and during both the harvest and the war years, no classes took place as the focus was upon maximizing agricultural productivity.[72]

Being malnourished and hungry was another constant condition.[73]   The children performed their duties while living off of “mush.”  Mush – oatmeal usually riddled with maggots, worms, and other bugs – was served three times a day for much of the existence of the Institute.[74]  If children refused a serving, it would be at their place at the next meal.[75]  If they puked it up, they were forced to eat it again.[76]  Special treats were provided at Christmas (an orange and sometimes a cornflake sprinkled with sugar) and at Easter (an egg).[77]  The only times the children ate well was when inspectors were present.[78]  More frequently, concerns were raised about hungry children stealing food from the slop designated for the pigs, or distressing townspeople because they were eating food from the garbage dump.[79]  Staff members, on the other hand, dined in front of the children and ate fresh vegetables, cream, butter, eggs, and other produce from the farm.[80]

Even though the Institute had a dairy herd that produced a large quantity of milk, Students were only given unpasteurized and improperly stored skim milk to drink.[81]  The administration, along with multiple doctors and inspectors, raised concerns about this, but multiple Principals disregarded orders to change this practice.[82]

All of the factors produced rampant disease.  There were epidemics of Bright’s disease, pneumonia, measles, influenza, scarlet fever, chickenpox, brain disease, sore throats, sore eyes, uremic poisoning, erysipelas, and mumps, not to mention regularly occurring hernias and sexually transmitted infections.[83]  This, in turn, resulted in remarkably high death rates.[84]  In order to keep reported deaths down, the Principals, in conjunction with the DIA did everything they could to discharge fatally ill children to hospital or send them back to family “on a sick leave” before the children died.[85]  It is probable that more than 50% of the students who attended the Institute did not survive.[86]

A further contributing factor to this was the abuse the children experienced.[87]  A number of instances of this have already been mentioned but it is worth highlighting more.  Many survivors speak of being lined up against the wall daily, after morning chores, and every student receiving blows.[88]  Those who were being sexually abused by staff members were beaten twice as hard.[89]  The normal punishment for bed-wetting was to have one’s face rubbed in one’s own urine, and others witnessed children’s faces rubbed into human excrement.[90]  Severe injuries from beatings for any kind of misbehaviour were a regular occurrence.[91]  Blanche Hill-Easton speaks of being smashed into a closet and having fused vertebrae as a result.[92]  Russ Moses summarized things well: “beatings were administered at the slightest pretext.  We were not human beings – we were the Indian who had to become shining examples of Anglican Christianity.”[93]  Other survivors have said they witnessed murders in the school.[94]

Sexual abuse was also frequent.[95]  Male and female staff members, including several Principals, raped the children in the basement because the noise of the machines drowned out the screams.[96]  Girls were sometimes pimped out to local parties.[97]  One child complained about being raped and was badly beaten and then sent away to Reformed School.[98]  On another occasion, the Institute experimented by admitting a two year old boy, Gary Miller.  He was repeatedly raped by the Principal and others from the age of three onwards.[99]  All told, I believe Paula Whitlow accurately summarized the situation:  “I do believe these sites were indeed breeding grounds for pedophiles – from the top down or the bottom up – from the stable man, to the gardener, and all the staff to the Principal.”[100]

One of the consequences of exposing children to this was the production of lateral violence.[101]  This was actively fostered by the staff members.  In the empty recreation rooms, fighting rings were created and the kids were forced to fight each other there.[102]  This produced a violent prison gang-like culture among some students and new students were forced to fight to see where they fit in.[103]  Tragically, this also resulted in older students sometimes sexually assaulting younger or more vulnerable students.[104]  Many students replicated both the behaviours and mentalities of their abusers.[105]

From being stripped at admission, to being raped in a chapel by the chaplain, to seeing half of one’s peers fall ill and disappear, this litany of horrors presents the following question: what makes all of this a Christian practice?

  1. The Christian Theology and Liturgical Practices of the Mohawk Institute

To answer this question, we must understand liturgies.  Liturgies are ways of structuring time and space in order to reinforce specific modes of habitation and habituation with/in their concomitant values and trajectories.  They are domains wherein meaning is constructed, reaffirmed, and intimately connected to one’s body and identity.  Ritualized abuse of the kind experienced by the children at the Mohawk Institute is a kind of liturgy.[106] It was designed to produce young bodies that were marked and habituated by the belief that they were morally and ontologically inferior heathens and savages, dirty and impure, in need of salvation and transformation into a superior way of being: that of Christian Canadians.[107] Shame, humiliation, and forcibly severing ties with family members and home communities were a part of this.[108]  To support these foreign liturgical practices (corporal punishment of children was unknown to Indigenous nations), theological motifs that were also unknown were emphasized: original sin, the fear of God, and the fires of hell, were all introduced and beaten into the children.[109]

To this end, religious instruction became an increasingly ubiquitous element of the liturgy of the Institute.  Tracking the reports about religious activity from 1921 through to 1938 illustrates this.[110]  The routine of daily morning prayers and a weekly chapel service on Sunday, expands rapidly.  In 1924, the classroom curriculum is altered to include daily study of Scripture along with “moral teaching.”[111]  A second church service on Sunday, paired with choir practice for the older children, appears in 1925.[112]  In 1926, even more bible classes are added for junior students.[113]  Yet a letter from the NEC in 1928 expresses dissatisfaction with the amount of time devoted to religion![114]  Therefore, in 1930, daily chapel services are held in the evening at the school.[115]  This, then, seems to be the pattern for the school after that: morning prayers, religious instruction during the three hours of class time, evening chapel, and two chapel services on Sundays.[116]  Even this, however, does not appear satisfy Zimmerman who observes: “Since coming to the Institute one of the greatest disappointments has been the lack of time which I have been able to give to religious education.”[117]

Intimately connected to these theological beliefs and liturgical practices was a Christian colonial patriotism.[118]  Principals were constantly relating Christianity to model citizenship and it is hard to distinguish the two.  Thus, in a piece Snell writes for The Eagle, he observes: “every effort is made to develop good Christian character, and on the whole it may be said that the attempt has been successful.”[119]  As proof of this claim he argues that graduates are succeeding as farmers, within business or industry, and are “making good wives in well-kept homes.”[120]

One of the most successful ways of manufacturing this theological patriotism was through the establishment of a cadet corps at the school in the 1890s.[121]  In 1896, the Mohawk cadets won first prize in a local competition – a feat repeated in 1911.[122]  The corps continued to be praised in 1921 and, although it is disbanded in 1925 (with the focus going more to athletics, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts), it was revived in 1949.[123]  The success of cadet training led to high enlistment rates from school graduates in both world wars.[124]  Just as importantly, the cadet movement – and the subsequent movements related to sports, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides – were seen as ways of producing Christian and British values in Indigenous children.[125]  Children learned to follow orders, respect an established hierarchy, discipline their bodies, follow the clock, and so on.[126] Here, Christianity, patriotism, militarism, and the shaping of young bodies into economically useful tools, all blur together and it becomes difficult to distinguish if this is more Christian, more British, more Canadian, or more genocidal.[127]

Conclusion: All Apologies

What we discover in the history of the Mohawk Institute is the systematic application of violence, with genocidal intention, undergirded by Christian theological beliefs, interwoven with an increasingly all-encompassing focus upon Christian instruction, guided by devout Christians, and intimately connected to the military and economic values and goals of settler governments.  It is a revealing and damning manifestation of the history of Christianity as that history has played out in territories on Turtle Island occupied first by the British and then by the Canadians.

We are now a few decades from the closure of the last residential school and the question remains as to what has changed.[128]  Granted, all of the parties involved have issued apologies.  The question is if apologies have resulted in changed practices, reparations, and new relationships, or if they have been a way of trying to bury the past, avoid reparations, and continue colonialism by other means.[129]

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for residential schools in June, 2008 but in September 2009 he told the G20 that Canada has “no history of colonialism” and then he aggressively pursued legislation that would eradicate indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights across Canada.[130]  The Commissioner for the RCMP apologized even earlier, in May 2004, but the RCMP has since been implicated in considerable levels of violence directed at both Indigenous women and Indigenous communities.[131]  The NEC has issued no apology and has expressed resentment for being involved in lawsuits related to the Institute because this has resulted in the loss of money “which could have benefited the needy in the native community.”[132]

Earlier, in 1993, after careful consultation with his legal team, Archbishop and Primate Michael Peters apologized for the part played by the Anglican Church of Canada.  He specifically apologizes for cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.[133]  However, when one goes to the Anglican website about the Mohawk Institute, one finds no mention of any wrongdoing.[134]  Here, at the end of it all, one is starkly reminded of the words of Blanche Hill-Easton: “We’re never going to heal… we’re like a faceless people on this land.”[135]


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[1] Although this observation – that all the Principals were Anglican clergymen – is often made, there are three notable exceptions created by the family dynasty of Robert Ashton who is able to have his son (Nelles Ashton), then his daughter (A. M. Boyce), and then his daughter’s husband (Sydney Rogers) follow him as Principals.  However, they were not Principals formally nominated by the NEC or the Anglican Diocese (or the DIA), even though they collectively served as Principals for over fifty years.

[2] Library and Archives of Canada.  School File Series – 1879-1953 (RG 10-B-3-d), C-7934-01464; available online here:; accessed March 11, 2017; unless otherwise noted, all file numbers refer to this series).  In what follows, I draw heavily on government files provided in this public record.  I went through over 4000 poorly sorted, often out of order, and frequently poorly scanned files while researching this paper.  In the midst of doing so, the following file, which appeared seemingly at random, should be noted: “To enable this file to be made available to researchers it has been necessary for IAND officials to exclude some material in accordance with Cabinet Directive No. 46 of 7 June 1973” (C-7935-00814).  In relation to Archbishop Carrington’s expression of shock, it is worth noting that this was at least the third coordinated effort of the DIA to take over the administration of the Mohawk Institute.  In the 1930s, the DIA had attempted to close down the Institute and transfer the students to day schools.  The Anglican Church fought against this and won.  As a result, the Mohawk Institute began to take in even more deeply impoverished students, from a much larger geographical region than before.  However, the struggle in the 1930s was, in turn, preceded by a conflict between the Canadian Government, the Anglican Church of Canada, and NEC as to who was taking what role in relation to the Mohawk Institute.  This was resolved from 1920-1921.  The NEC retained the lease of the land but the federal government took on full operating costs (apart from paying for the insurance).  The local Anglican Diocese was granted the ability to select Principals.  For further on the NEC’s identity and history, see fn24, below.

[3] C-7933-01467 and C-7933-01468.

[4] C-7933-01470.

[5] Respectively, C-7933-01476; C-7933-01483; C-7933-01484; C-7933-01487.  I use the word “Indian” here and throughout because this was the language deployed at the time.

[6] C-7933-01495.

[7] C-7933-01497.

[8] Respectively, C-7933-01472; C-7933-01491.

[9] C-7933-01489.

[10] Cf., for example, this article from March 1945 in the London Free Press; C-7933-01533.

[11] Thus, for example, the Bishop of Huron writes, “the supervision of a staff of teachers and other officers in the School, always a difficult matter as experience has shown, is likely to be much more successful in hands other than those of an Indian, however well qualified he may be” (quoted in Elizabeth Graham, The Mush Hole: Life at Two Indian Residential Schools [Waterloo: Heffle Publishing, 1997], 12).

[12] For the details of the wrangling back and forth between Indian Affairs and the Anglican Church of Canada, cf. the following letters that are on file: C-7933-01515; C-7933-015-16, 44-46, 50-54, 56, 58-59, 77-79; C-7933-0615-17, 33-35, 49, 80; C-7934-00179; my perspective here is also informed by my correspondence with Paula Whitlow, the Executive Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre (Paula Whitlow, e-mail message to author, Sept 30, 2016) and by my conversation with the Librarian of the Woodland Cultural Centre, Virve Wiland, and Amos Key Jr., the Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre’s First Nations Language Program (Virve Wiland and Amos Key Jr. in discussion with the author, January 2017).  The oral histories provided in the interviews and e-mails mentioned in this paper are a critical component in engaging in scholarship related to Indigenous histories, especially given the ways in which Indigenous knowledge-keeping and transmission have differed from Western, academic models (cf. Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd Ed. [New York: Zed Books, 2012]).

[13] The Institute closed in 1970.  Zimmerman continued on as the chaplain at Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks – the Chapel used by the students of the school and also by others in the community – until he retired in 1981.  Cf. his Obituary, available at: (accessed March 5, 2017).  Zimmerman’s obituary also states that: “He was honored by being made an honorary member of the Six Nations and given the name De ha swa the thah (The Enlightener).”  Multiple Principals were given honorary Mohawk names.  One should be cautious about reading too much into this as it is likely that such name-giving was strictly ceremonial – similar to what happens with Canadian Prime Ministers like Stephen Harper or Justin Trudeau – whose Indigenous naming ceremony should, in no way, be taken as a reflection of how they related to Indigenous peoples and nations during their tenures as Prime Minister.

[14] ; Jessica Powless (Outreach Coordinator, Woodland Cultural Centre) from a tour and conversation with the author, Dec 2016; also Wiland and Key Jr; Graham, 396-97, 399-401, 404, 409, 411-412, 422.  According to the oral history, Zimmerman and his wife, Gladys, took a large amount of files and other documents with them when they left the school.  It is said that the Anglican Diocese tried to recover these files from first Zimmerman, and then from Gladys after Zimmerman died in 1982, but that they were unsuccessful in doing so.  The couple lived rent free on the grounds of the school until they died (Gladys died in 1984).

[15] Wiland and Key Jr.; Graham, 420; also, cf. Ashley Csanady, “’Where I learned to fight and cheat and steal’: Six Nations wants to save longest running residential school,” National Post, June 21, 2016, accessed March 11, 2017. news/  Other examples of Zimmerman’s cruelty are abundant in survivor stories – from forcing feeding a girl until she vomited, to causing permanent kidney damage in another girl by kicking her in the back, to leaving a scar on a boys’ back because he (Zimmerman) exhausted himself beating the boy to try and make him cry, to putting tacks into the strap, to beating a boy so bad that he caused permanent brain damage, to stripping a couple naked and beating them in front of one another and the staff members, to lashing children with an extension cord (Graham, 391, 401-402, 404, 418, 424).  Zimmerman was said to act nice when other people were around but cruelly when there was no witness (ibid., 396).  Some survivors describe him as a sadist (ibid., 402).

[16] Cf. Louise Brown, “Giving a voice to residential school ghosts: Survivors stress ‘need to save the evidence’ of nation’s dark past,” The Toronto Star, July 2, 2016.  Accessed March 11, 2017.  These behaviours may help to explain why, early on in Zimmerman’s career as Principal, the Department of Indian Affairs is notified that Mrs. Zimmerman has been hospitalized for a number of weeks due to a very serious depression (C-7933-01973).

[17] The Mohawk Institute was the oldest and longest running residential school in Canada, existing both before and after Confederation.  It is also the only residential school still standing that can be toured.  After the schools were closed, the land was returned to Band control and the buildings were either destroyed, allowed to fall into disrepair or, in a few instances (like Shingwauk in Sault Ste. Marie, which is now Algoma College) converted to new uses.  In order to save the Mohawk Institute so that the legacy of the school could be known, Six Nations did a fund raising campaign.  The Province of Ontario (which was uninvolved in running the school) contributed $1,400,000.  The federal government (which was heavily involved in running the school) contributed nothing (Powless, Wiland and Key Jr.).

[18] “Turtle Island” is a commonly agreed upon Indigenous name for North America.  Occupying settler colonial states like Canada and the United States have mapped their way onto the geography much like the Rhodesians, or the Boers, or the Belgians, did in Africa.  For more comprehensive histories of this, that takes us beyond the scope of this paper, that support this claim Cf. James Daschuk. Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life (Regina: University of Regina Press, 2013), passim; Todd Gordon. Imperialist Canada (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2010), 66-133; and more generally and expansively, Ronald Wright. Stolen Continents (Toronto: Penguin Books, 1993), passim.

[19] On residential schools in general, cf. John S. Milloy. “A National Crime”: The Canadian Residential School System. 1879 to 1986 (Winnipeg: The University of Manitoba Press, 1999 Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Report on the Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples. November 1996. Accessed March 11, 2017.; and Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Final Report. 2015. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[20] John A. MacDonald focused on the model provided by the Mohawk Institute after the publication of the Davin Report (Nicholas Davin. Report on Industrial Schools for Indians and Half-Breeds. March 14, 1879. Accessed March 11, 2017.  This report proposed that Canada follow the American industrial school model for Indigenous children.

[21] Joseph Brant’s Mohawk name was Theyendanegea – He who places two bets.  For this and much of what follows in this section cf.Robert Carney, “Aboriginal Residential Schools Before Confederation: The Early Experience.” Canadian Catholic Historical Association. Historical Studies 61 (1995): 13-4- (no pagination online); Wiland and Key Jr.; Powless; Graham, passim; Residential School Research, Archive and Visitor Centre & The Shinkwauk Project. Mohawk (Institute) Indian Residential School, Brantford, Ontario. Six Nations on the Grand River. 2008.  Accessed March 11, 2017.

[22] Brant is considered an assimilationist (Wiland and Key Jr.). He was educated at Moor Indian Charity School in Connecticut, where he stood out in all areas of study, including Bible, Latin, and Greek.  Additionally, apart from fighting for the British Crown, the Mohawks had already established a connection with the Church of England because they were concerned about the aggressive missionary activities of Jesuits in their region (who were allied with the French) and because they were also concerned about the Puritan’s burning witches at Salem.  In 1710, the British actively pursued an alliance with the Mohawks (after much needed reinforcements had failed to appear) and sent five Mohawks to England as delegates to Queen Anne (one died on the voyage and those who survived were called the “Four Indian Kings”).  As a condition of their subsequent alliance, the Queen sent two Anglican Priests back with the Mohawks, as well as two sterling silver communion sets that were subsequently used in Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, built c.1800CE. This was the chapel used by the Mohawk Institute (the Queen Anne silver remains there), although cold and wet weather often caused chapel services to be performed at the school itself.  The chapel can still be booked today as a wedding venue, as per a collaboration between Parks Canada, the Anglican Church, and Six Nations. Cf.; accessed March 11, 2017.

[23] To be clear: these teachers were to be selected by the Mohawks from among the Mohawks.  Teaching aids – from Prayer books to Primers – were to be in the Mohawk language.

[24] This delegation included Joseph Brant’s son, John, who was a strong advocate for the NEC-sponsored school.  He was expecting a school curriculum that would mainly consist of reading, writing, and mathematics but what followed was something very different.  The NEC – more formally, “the Company for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and parts adjacent” – was founded by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliament in 1649.  Its focus was on spreading “the Gospel of Christ unto and amongst the heathen natives in or near New England and parts adjacent in America.”  Cf. Neil Hitchin, and the Governor and Court of the New England Company. ‘Come Over and Help Us’: The New England Company and Its Mission. 1649-2001 (Ely, Great Britain: St. Pancras Publishing and Research, 2002); see also the site maintained by the NEC: (accessed March 11, 2017).  The NEC is still active today.  I contacted their Secretary while preparing this paper to ask about access to their archives in relation to the Mohawk Institute and received a copy of the book by Hitchin et al. cited above.

[25] Prior to going to work with the Six Nations, Lugger had been in the British military and had founded a “National Negro School” in Barbados where he became convinced that the content of a standard British education had to be complemented with a focus on spiritual education in order to be successful when working with uncivilized peoples. Cf. Charles M. Johnston, “Lugger, Robert” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. VII (1836-1850) (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1988), no online pagination. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Lugger also began work on a Mohawk grammar and Mohawk translations of prayer books and the Book of Common Prayer – a project completed by his successor. Cf. Abram Nelles, The Book of Common Prayer, according to the use of the Church of England, Translated into Mohawk. Trans. by John Hill Jr. (Hamilton: Ruthven’s Book and Job Office, 1842). Accessed March 11, 2017.

[26] The language of a “Mechanic’s Institution” suggests that Lugger was hoping to set up an adult education centre, but colonial governments were shifting and giving up hope on changing (“civilizing” or “converting”) Indigenous adults and were, instead, pressuring Protestant Missionaries to focus on children (often the younger the better).  This shift actually fit well with the mission statement of the NEC: “The first duty of the New England Company… is to civilize heathen natives… their second duty is to Christianize them” (Graham, 5).  Examining how this subsequently played out across what became Canada, John Milloy concludes: “The churches led the way in building the [residential school] system” (A National Crime, 52).

[27] Instead of teaching reading, writing, and math, Lugger focused on teaching the boys trades and teaching the girls domestic duties, thereby driving a wedge between the students and the ways in which their families lived.  Lugger had selected the site in the Mohawk village because his initial missionary work had met with more success there.  He had clashed with the Senecas, Cayugas, and Delawares, who were following the teachings of Skanyadariyoh (Handsome Lake) and reviving traditional religious practices.  He only little to moderate success among the Onondagas, Oneidas, and Tuscaroras.  Cf. Douglas Leighton. “Nelles, Abram (Abraham). Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. XI (1881-1890). (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1982): no pagination. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Thus, the split with Brant and the Mohawks was the beginning of the process whereby Indigenous children were forced against their will and against the wills of their families, to attend residential schools.  This is but one example among many of Indigenous peoples from Turtle Island entering into agreements of good faith with European settlers (and the North American States that replaced the European colonies) only to have what they requested (in this case a school staffed with their own people, taught in their own language, with the curriculum under their control), twisted and used as a weapon intent on assimilation or genocide (cf., for example, Paul W. Pasquale (ed.). Natives & Settlers – Now and Then. Historical Issues and Current Perspectives on Treaties and Land Claims in Canada. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 34.1 [Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2007).

[28] There appears to be some disagreement regarding the date when (what became) the Mohawk Institute transitioned to a residential school.  The most definitive account, compiled by Graham, supports the 1834 date (Graham, 2).  As far as I can tell, the timeline is as follows: Lugger’s Mohawk day school begins in 1928.  The Mechanics Institute begins in 1931 and boards students at farms in the local area.  In 1834, the school itself is expanded to include a residential component, after Lugger, his assistant and successor, Abram Nelles, and a third man met and concluded the best way to overcome Indian suspicion of the whites was through “the instruction of a number of youth of both sexes in the arts, habits and customs of civilized life, who may hereafter act as instruments in the hands of the Company for the complete civilization of Indians generally” (quoted by Graham, 7).

[29] Nelles was a missionary who had met with some success among the Tuscaroras.  He had been acting as Lugger’s assistant at the Mechanic’s Institute prior to Lugger’s departure.  Cf. Leighton; also Graham, 46-70.  Nelles received a Mohawk name (meaning “Two trees of the same height”) but, as noted above, one should be cautious about reading too much into this.

[30] Cf. Graham, 71-116.  Ashton Sr. also created prison cells for solitary confinement, a system for censoring mail, and made English mandatory at all times in 1873 (ibid., 8).  He also used a cat-o’-nine-tails to whip the children on their bare bottoms in front of their peers (ibid., 355-56).  Ashton Jr. was described as “cruel” by former students and was fined for placing three runaway girls in solidarity confinement with their hair cut off, and whipping one thirteen year old girl on her bare back with a rawhide whip (ibid., 9).  Being locked in the dark in solitary confinement was still a practice in used in the 1940s (ibid., 389).

[31] This was part of how the Government fulfilled its mandate in Section 91:24 of the 1867 British North American Act (now the Constitution Acts) which assigned to Canada responsibility for all “Indians, [and] lands reserved for Indians” (cf. Government of Canada. “VI: Distribution of Legislative Power.” Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982. Justice Laws Website, last modified March 10, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[32] Government of Canada. National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba. Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative (May 2013): no pagination. Accessed February 28, 2017.

[33] Ibid.  From this point onwards, the Government is constantly plotting and attempting to gain increasingly more control over the school.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Graham, 10, 117-120. I found nothing negative about Turnell in any of the texts examined.  It is noted that he chose to “relax” the discipline at the school, as the Ashtons had, implanted a militaristic culture within the school.  He also gave the children whole milk and butter and met with the Six Nations Chiefs Council to discuss the Institute.  He is also reported to have “paid out of his own pocket” for science teacher to attend the school each week (ibid., 14). Turnell also got rid of the prison cell and the cat-o’-nine-tails that previous Principals had used – he also decided that students could only be strapped on their hands and they had to first put out their arm on their own volition in order to be strapped (ibid., 23).  There are no truancies reported during Turnell’s time as Principal – a rather shocking observation given that high truancy rates at other times.  At least one student remembers him fondly (ibid., 355).  The NEC dismisses Turnell because they do not like the approach he is taking and hire Mrs. Boyce, Nelles Ashton’s sister, to temporarily take his place.  This brings to mind the words of survivor Raymond Hill, “It seems so funny that all the good people that they had there for the children, they all seemed to disappear over the year” (ibid., 371).  To which Hilda Hill replies: “Less than that – six months.” (ibid.).

[36] Graham, 10, 120-137.  Mrs. Boyce had temporarily subbed in after Ashton Jr. joined the military in 1914, but she was replaced by Turnell for a few years.  Rogers was the boy’s master at the school since at least 1919 when he first shows up in the records I saw (ibid., 121).  Almost all of the government records leave of calling Mrs. Boyce by her first name “Ann” or by her title “Mrs.” (instead referring to her as “A. M. Boyce” or “Principal [A. M.] Boyce”) leaving me rather surprised to learn that she was a woman and most likely a widow (given her marriage to Mr. Rogers at the end of 1921).

[37] Cf. Government of Canada, Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative. The remaining Principals after Rogers, H. W. Snell and C. J. Zimmerman, were selected by the Anglican Church of Canada rather than the NEC.  After 1921, the NEC is almost totally uninvolved.  The land is leased to the Government of Canada who becomes responsible for the upkeep costs.  The management and administration of the Institution goes to the Anglican Church of Canada.

[38] Cf. Graham, 138-64.

[39] Cf. the following communications written by Duncan Campbell Scott, the Secretary of the DIA:C-7933-01097-98; C-7933-01100; C-7933-01117.  The NEC neglects to mention any of this in their official narrative of the events and state that it is “difficult to conclude other than that Duncan Campbell Scott was conducting a campaign to acquire the properties and money for his Department, which raises questions about the true reasons for his demanding the resignation of the Principal of the Mohawk Institute in 1929 on the grounds that he was not giving proper attention to the school” (Hitchin et al., 34).

[40] Graham 165-82.  Snell is remembered for having a particular “fondness” for the older girls who all tried to stay away from him (Graham, 370, 387).  He was also remembered as being constantly drunk and it is likely that he was drinking and raping the girls.  One survivor story in particular illustrates this (on what follows, cf. accounts provided by two sisters in Graham, 375-76, 279). A nineteen year old girl, who was in grade five because she had epilepsy and was considered slow, was caught in the dormitory during the day (she had gone there for privacy because she was on her period).  Snell sends for her to go to the office but she refuses to leave the playroom where the nurse had brought her.  Snell then goes to strap her in the playroom and the other little girls try to defend her but he straps everyone and drives the other girls back against the wall.  He then straps the nineteen year old until she has a seizure.  He then steps on her before leaving and says, “She’ll get over it.”  The other girls revive her and examine the damage (“I was surprised her whole back wasn’t bleeding.  It looked like there was blood just under the skin, and her head – where he had strapped her on the head there were this big welts, so that she couldn’t comb her hair, and she had a black eye and there were bruises on her face, and her legs – all over her legs and buttocks. She was just a beaten pulp”).  When the other students ask her why she didn’t go to the Principal’s office, she replies, “I don’t know but I didn’t want to get raped.”  A third former student recalls this beating but does not recall the comment about rape and, in fact, denies any “sexual stuff” ever happened at the school (ibid., 385).  The former student who recounts this story in the most detail notes that she was too young to even know what the word “rape” means and then says, “Snell used to drink wine.  You could tell he was high, his face used to be just red, and he’d be smiling all the time” (ibid., 376).  Later in her narrative, she returns to the incident: “Looking back on it now, seeing this man beat up this girl, I lost my identity” (ibid., 377).

[41] Ibid., 182-209.

[42] In part by taking in students from much further away – especially Québec, but also the Northwest Territories – and in part by taking in more students with developmental or learning disabilities and sponsoring more children from places of abject poverty.

[43] Cf. Wiland and Key Jr., who noted that many kids were adopted out of the Mohawk Institute prior to the ‘60s scoop; and Milloy, 217-218.  The term “the ‘60s scoop” is a term that refers to the mass removal of children from their homes and their communities in order to place them within the child welfare system.  This coincided with the government’s efforts to close down residential schools (cf. Erin Hanson, “Sixties Scoop.” Indigenous Foundations, University of British Columbia. Accessed March 11, 2017.; Suzanne Fournier and Ernie Crey. Stolen From Our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Photographs by David Neil [Vancouver: Douglas and MacIntyre, 1997], 81-114).  There are now more Indigenous children in foster care today than ever were in residential schools at the height of their operations (cf. Adrian Humphries, “’A lost tribe’: Child welfare system accused of repeating residential school history,” The National Post, December 15, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[44] Wiland and Key Jr.

[45] Duncan Campbell Scott stated this explicitly: “I want to get rid of the Indian problem….Our object is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic, and there is no Indian question, and no Indian department” Cf. D’Arcy Rheault. Solving the “Indian Problem”” Assimilation Laws, Practices & Indian Residential Schools. Ontario Métis Family Records Centre. 2011. Accessed March 11, 2017.  It is chilling that, when speaking of the high student mortality rates (he acknowledges that approximately 50% of the students die), Scott urges people to press on towards a “Final Solution of our Indian Problem” (ibid.). P.G. Anderson’s, the British Indian Affairs Superintendent in 1846, statement to a general council of Chiefs in what became Ontario (“your children shall be sent to Schools, where they will forget their Indian habits and be instructed in all the necessary arts of civilized life, and become one with your white brethren”) also illustrates how deeply rooted this assimilationist goal was in colonial efforts to “educate” Indigenous peoples (ibid.).  This also fits with the Mission of the NEC already quoted above.  Scott is simply stating that he plans to succeed where his forebears failed.

[46] C-7935-00791.

[47] Survivors have not forgotten their numbers (cf., for example, Graham 365). Upon touring the Institute with Jessica Powless, I was shown a picture of graffiti carved by students under one of the sewing tables.  It said “22+51” and it was explained that this was not a mathematical equation but, because students were often unable to learn the names of other students, it was the equivalent of seeing “Johnny + Susie” scrawled on the wall of a public school. Photos of this graffiti are available online. Cf. Donna Kell (photos by Donna Kell and Jodi Bar) “Mohawk Institute Residential School: A Life-Changing Visit for IAP2 Practitioners,” IAP2 Canada Blog, December 13, 2016. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[48] Powless.  Spending time in at the nurse’s station by the front office is a harrowing experience for those thinking of young children separated from their families, being stripped naked, examined, shaved, and then burned (on their scalps by the delousing solution) by adults who did not speak the same language as them.  It should be further noted that children were not permitted possessions for the duration of their time at the Institute (one Christmas  a local charity donated toys but Zimmerman took them all away after the donors were gone [Graham, 401]; another girl recalls baking a prize-winning cake and not being allowed to have any of it [ibid., 405]).  Hidden stashes of trash from town or from the street then became valuables for the kids.  Some speak of the joy they had playing with gum wrappers (Brown).  Others remember a girl who had a piece of broken glass she found that she used to treasure and sleep with at night because it was her sole possession (Wiland and Key Jr.).  Witnessing one such stash of belongings found in a hideaway at the Mohawk Institute and thinking of the very young children who treasured such things, was also a harrowing experience.

[49] Classes had always been in English but Robert Ashton made English mandatory at all times shortly after he became Principal in 1972 (Graham, 22).  Students recall various forms of abuse, from being locked in a closet with rats to receiving repeated and severe beatings, for speaking their languages (ibid., 380, 410).

[50] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.  As with most of the NEC narrative, the abusive element of this is downplayed in their version of events, noting how missionaries and administrates, after Nelles, essentially stopped engaging with the Mohawk language: “The Indians were learning English anyway, and no successful champion emerged to stir up support for further translation work” (Hitchen et al., 9). Besides, the NEC goes on to claim, “The offer of technical and English language skills was believed to provide essential tools for Indian survival by both Indian and English administrators alike” (ibid., 10).  Of course, the point of all this was missional: “The hope was that once they [“the Indians”] had learned English they would then consider becoming Christian” (ibid., 11).  However, looking at how this plays out in residential schools, the NEC concludes: “The limited success of the schools can be put down to a conflict between white aims of assimilation and the Indian preference for their own languages.  There is no question that Indian students learned much more quickly in their native languages as opposed to English.  But even if they had received the education they wanted, in the end, the white settler community had little interest in hiring or doing business with them” (ibid., 22).  This final observation is correct but, within the context of ‘Come Over and Help Us’ it fits a broader pattern of the NEC minimizing the violence related to the Institute it was overseeing while quickly pointing the finger elsewhere (even the title of the book is telling in this regard).

[51] Powless.  Seating at meals and bunking at night were ordered by number.  Thus, for example, two sisters were assigned number 34 and number 54 and were then strapped when caught bunking together on the first night (Brown).  While this was the general practice, and a frequent memory of sibling survivors, while examining the archives, I did observe that there were times when siblings were assigned consecutive numbers (C-7935-00519).  The lack of concern about any negative impact this might have on children is evident in a letter from V. M. Eastwood, Superintendent of the Indian Agency in Peterborough, to Philip Phelan, Chief of the Education Division, dated June 3, 1949.  Eastwood wanted to divide siblings between the Mohawk Institute (where he would send a 9 and a 10 year old girl) and the Shingwauk Residential School at Sault Ste. Marie (where he would send a 12 and a 6 year old girl).  He observes: “It is realized that in making this suggestion we are separating the family, but we do not feel that this would cause any great difficulty” (C-7935-00495).  Even at the Mohawk Institute together, brothers and sisters had a difficult time keeping in any contact.  Some speak of not even being aware when a sibling had been sent to the hospital (Graham, 409).

[52] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr. Those children whose parents could not speak English were, along with their parents, expected to remain silent for the fifteen minutes of the visit.  One of the ways in which this served to fracture children from their families and communities was the way in which these visits would then create pain in the children that would be blamed upon their parents (“Why doesn’t my mom ask me how I am?” Why doesn’t my dad take me out of here?” Why won’t they talk to me?”).  Thus, the children’s anger could be redirected from the school and its administration to the parents of the children.

[53] Attendance had already been made mandatory as far back as 1872 for what schools existed then.  However, by 1892 “less than 25% of Indian children attended school regularly” and so the Indian Act is modified to allow the use of force to remove kids from Reserves and place them in schools (Hitchin et al., 27).  John A. MacDonald is looking to reinforce this while also expanding the school system in general.

[54] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.; Crey and Fournier, 54-56.

[55] Note the following letter dated February 10, 1949, from a mother asking for the return of her 11 year old daughter: “I want release for my daughter Mildred Horne, she is at Mohawk Institute, she is restless at school and seems to lost [sic] interest there I have a good place over here for her” (C-7935-00407).  The letter was never answered.

[56] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.  One remarkable exception to this was Susan Hardy, a Six Nations woman who came to the school as an 11 year old girl in 1978.  She then began teaching there in 1886 and continued to do so until she retired in 1936 – with a pension (no other teachers received pensions and several Principals received much more limited pensions than Hardy… although the DIA forgot to send it to her for the first four months and needed regular reminders to do so after that); cf. C-7933-01275; C-7933-12310; Wiland and Key Jr., Whitlow).  Her service was also recognized in a letter of gratitude from the Six Nations Council, accompanied by a $25 gift, sent to her on July 6, 1929 (C-799-01128).

[57] C-7934-00852; leaks requiring the moving of beds are also mentioned (C-7934-00854).  Regarding hot water, cf. C-7934-01077.

[58] C-7934-01850-54; C-7934-01082; C-7934-01184-85;

[59] Wiland and Key Jr.  All of this was further exacerbated by the Government policy of using the lowest bid as the sole criteria for selecting which contractors did repairs.  Cf., as one example of this, C-7934-00601.  Those who make subsequent repairs are constantly noting that their work is needed because the previous work was inadequate, done completely wrong, or caused foreseeable problems elsewhere.  Examples include: needing to replace the wrong sized pipes installed with the boys urinals in Nov 1936 (C-7934-01510); fixing the heating in Dec 1937 (C-7934-01558); repairing the boiler in Feb 1939 (C-7934-0164); and repairing the roof of the kids’ dining room when it was in danger of collapsing in Oct 1940 (C-7934-01777).

[60] Again, to pick a few examples: in 1888 the kids had no blankets for their beds; during the war years, the boys got cut down (very rough, almost burlap) uniforms and received no outerwear like coats, hats, and gloves, and they also received no underwear.  Winter coats were not issued to the boys til the 1960s (Wiland and Key Jr.).

[61] Cf. Russ Moses, “’The most abject human misery’:  Memories of a residential school survivor,” The Ottawa Citizen, May 18, 2015. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[62] Wiland and Key Jr.

[63] In fact, the Ashtons are said to have started a tradition of dressing returned runaways in clothing that marked them as convicts; Wiland and Key Jr.  The Ashtons had also created a small solidarity confinement cell used for runaways and, as previously noted, began censoring mail (Graham, 9, 23).  Turnell had briefly closed up the cell, but it was reopened after he was dismissed.  Survivors, even of much later years, also describe it as a prison (cf. ibid., 384, 414).  One observes: “This was another shock – to get letters from home and find they had already been opened.  That’s another reason why we all felt like prisoners” (ibid., 388).

[64] Built for a maximum of 125 students, in the later decades the school often housed up to 185; (Powless).  Overcrowding is also characteristic of Canadian prisons.

[65] This was true of the central staircase after the side stairwells were built (Powless).

[66] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr; Graham, 360, 413, 417.  Some students, however, did do that and, having looked down from those windows, I greatly admire their courage (while also being greatly saddened by the desperation that drove them to take such risks).  The thought of my 8 year old son attempting that feat terrifies me.

[67] Here, internal memos shed a different light on expectations about the actual practices of the school versus how those practices were presented to the public.  For example, in a piece run in the Brantford Junior Expositor, the Principal claims that a code of honour rules the boys’ dorm and so the dorm is never locked and the boys never break faith (C-7933-00979-81).  However, when the boys and girls are later discovered to have found ways to meet-up with one another at night, J. D. McLean, then Assistant Deputy and Secretary of the DIA, writes to the Principal: “It is not clear to me how this breach of discipline was possible.  Are not the dormitories locked at night?” (C-7933-01025).

[68] This makeshift swing actually killed a thirteen year old girl name Effie Smith after the 100lb wheel affixed to the top of the pole fell onto her; C-7935-01399-01420.  This appears to be a case of (criminal?) negligence where a very heavy metal wheel was placed atop a pole that was known to be cracked and in a state of disrepair, but no one is found to be at fault.  Snell, the Principal at the time, along with the RCMP, the attending Doctor, and the DIA, find the death to be “purely accidental” and Snell concludes his report to the Secretary (in a portion of a letter flagged with “note this” written in the margins): “I may say that the mother attached no blame to the management.  In fact, she made the request that her little boy might be admitted next term.  I have received a very kind letter on her behalf, thanking us for our kindness in connection with the sad occurrence” (C-7935-001420).  This letter is not part of the public record (some survivors also remember this death; cf. Graham, 370).  There are reports that there was additional playground equipment for the boys, going back at least as far as 1872, and sometimes entertaining outings (“picnics, corn-roasts, truck-rides and sleighing-parties”) were arranged (Graham, 28).

The emptiness of the playrooms persists even after Zimmerman orders some bats and balls and volleyball nets on March 17, 1947 (this the first time I found any mention of any recreational equipment being purchased by the school) (C-9734-01987).  Thus, A. J. Doucet, Supervisor of Vocational Training, comments on his visit to the Mohawk Institute on November 23, 1948: “My first impression especially when going through the dormitories and the playroom was a sense of depression.  It is the old story of noticing children wandering without any purpose whatsoever during their free time.”  Doucet then observes: “This can have a very baneful effect on their character and on their immediate conduct” (C-7934-02204).  One survivor from the 1950s describes the playroom as “a dungeon-like room in the basement” (Graham, 413).

[69] Depending on the enrollment any given year, the classes offered varied from grades one to six, or one to eight, or two to six, and so on; Government of Canada, Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative.  It appears that, regardless of age and number of years spent at the school, on average, students came out with what would be considered a fifth grade level of education (Wiland and Key Jr.).  At one point, Principal Boyce expresses a desire to better the education of the children by raising the school’s standards and by offering the possibility of a high school education for the students. Russell T. Ferrier, the Superintendent of Indian Education, replies and tells her not to worry about the standards as the schools are run by the federal government and not accountable to provincial standards while also declaring that “it is inadvisable to commence high school work in the Mohawk Institute” (C-77933-00744 and C-7933-00739).  However, a few years later the Department does appear to be very concerned that the absence of poultry on the farm is a serious educational concern that should be rectified immediately which, I think, handily illustrates the kind of education the Department wanted the children to receive (C-7933-01272).

[70] Powless. A bonus period of free time could be earned each week if nobody tried to run away.  In this way, the children were encouraged to police themselves.  The language of “chores” is potentially misleading.  Some survivors speak of it in this way: “I was just a slave… It was like a concentration camp” (Graham, 399).

[71] Trades were taught initially but an agricultural focus quickly replaced that because none of the settlers wanted to hire or work with Indigenous people (Hitchin et at., 22) and because the government wanted Indigenous peoples to adopt agriculture are their mode of living on reserves (Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.).  After this transition to a focus on domestic duties for girls, one girl speaks of spending eleven hours per day (every day) scrubbing floors (Cf. Richard Beales, “We’re never going to heal,” Brantford Expositor, December 15, 2008. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[72] Wiland and Key Jr.; Moses, “’The most abject human misery.’”

[73] “We was hungry all the time we was there” (Graham, 357; also 388, 393). One of the sorrowful ironies of this observation is that malnutrition of children on Reserves was often used as a reason to take kids away from their families and send them to the Mohawk Institute.  Cf., for example, this letter from James McCracken, the Indian Agent in Sarnia in August, 1949 (C-7935-00542).

[74] The school tended to buy oatmeal that had been returned to the seller by other buyers because it was maggoty or spoiled (and so the oatmeal could be purchased at a discount) or the school bought massive amounts of amount to supply many years (thereby also getting a discount) but then mice, along with worms, flies, and other bugs would get into it because it was improperly stored (Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.).  Hence, the common name of the schools – “the Mush Hole.”  This name goes back as far as 1942, as per Russ Moses, who says that students referred to the school that way when he first attended in that year (Russ Moses, Residential School Memoir. Indian Affairs Branch, Department of Citizen and Immigration [December 1965. File No. 1/25-20-1 (E.24)]).  Given that oatmeal was even more prominent in earlier years, it is likely that the name originated early.  It is worth noting that the students had changed the words of a hymn (“There is a happy land, far, far away, Where Saints in glory stand bright, bright as day”) to reflect this (“There is a boarding school far away, Where we get mush ‘n’ milk three times a day”) (Graham, 382 and rear cover).  Almost all the survivors Graham interviews have terrible memories of this oatmeal (ibid., 375).

[75] And it would remain there until they ate it.  Although sometimes they were also not permitted to leave their place until they ate the food set before them; (Powless)

[76] They would be forced to do this up to three times in a row; (Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.).

[77] Russ Moses, Residential School Memoir. Indian Affairs Branch, Department of Citizen and Immigration [December 1965. File No. 1/25-20-1 (E.24).  This, as Moses notes, despite that fact that for many decades the school cared for several hundred egg-laying hens (also: Graham, 402).

[78] Survivors note that the school always received advance notice of inspections and everyone was instantly put on extra cleaning duties (Graham, 378).  When inspectors are present, the children are reported as eating, for example, a Christmas meal of cold roast pork, fresh vegetables, plum pudding, figs, dates, nuts, candies, and oranges, as well as a follow-up dinner the next day of hot pork, fresh vegetables, and mince pies (C-7933-00749).Christmases with the presence of an Inspector are remembered rather differently: “Rogers came into the dormitory where we slept and he just had a few peanuts with shells on them, and he just throwed [sic] them around, and you had to pick your own and somebody would step on your fingers and you didn’t even get very much.  That was all we got – that was supposed to be Christmas” (Harrison Burning, quoted in Graham, 357).  It does appear that the quality of food may have slightly improved in the ‘40s when Zimmerman first started and was seeking to lower truancy rates (Graham, 42, 385, 389).  Thus, Moses says that breakfast included two slices of bread with jam or honey along with “oatmeal with worms.” Lunch had more bread and “rotten soup,” and dinner was more bread with a bun and fried potatoes with an apple or a cake every other night (Moses, Residential School Memoir).  However, by Dec 1947, reports are being submitted that say the budget does not permit even this subpar quality of food level to be maintained and kids are expressing concern that meals will go back to being as they were before (C-7933-0848).  On the “rotten soup” it is interesting to note that a correspondence from this time says that meat has been found for the Mohawk Institute.  However, concerns are expressed that the meat will be on the road, unrefrigerated, for a week in unusually warm weather prior to arriving at the Institute (C-7934-01954).

[79] Moses notes the matter of eating the pig swill (Moses, Residential School Memoir).  Complaints about kids eating from the garbage dump are originally treated dismissively by the DIA but Principal Snell acknowledges that it does happen.  However, he says that the boys who do this are punished “thoroughly” (C-7933-01250-51; C-7933-01254).  Several former students remember going to the dump for food (cf. Graham, 361, 363, 405).  One states that the city began “spraying the dump with chemicals” in order to counter this (ibid., 418-419).

[80] Powless; Wiland and Key Jr.  Survivors recall, “the staff ate food fit for kings and queens” (Graham, 388).

[81] A small amount went to the staff and the rest was sold or churned into butter and then sold.

[82] This remained the case even after the Principals were warned that the way they handled milk was not only unethical but was also illegal (cf. David Napier, “Ottawa experimented on native kids,” Anglican Journal, May 1, 2000. Accessed March 11, 2016.  This issue appears repeatedly in the records.  Cf., for example, C-7933-01309; C-7933-01875; C-7933-02155; C-7935-00055.  Major Randle engages in some uncharacteristic on-the-record contemplation when responding to Dr. Falconer’s expressed concern about how milk is treated at the Mohawk Institute and how this can spread disease: “No-one knowing well the conditions of the Mohawk Institute can be happy or satisfied, or feel it is a credit to Indian Administration, or a place you could at any time show people over.  Personally, it is my opinion – as it is now almost purely a Departmental responsibility and the only Residential School serving a large number of populus [sic] Reserves, and must be maintained, the sooner we recognize this, the better.  It should be a model of what a Residential School can be – a pleasure to see and go into, a place which turns out happy healthy Indian children ready to face the world, instead of a crowd who by the very environment in which they have lived in and grown up in, have an inferiority complex often never overcome” (C-7933-01880-82).

[83] Government of Canada, Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative.  Sample reports include C-7934-00221-22.  I find the recurrence of hernias in children interested (cf., for example, C-7933-00819). Also, Graham, 27. I wonder if this was the result of the hard labour the children were required to perform.  The instances of sexually transmitted infections in the children are also heartbreaking.  I cannot find the file now, but I read one medical report about how a young boy had gonorrhea in his eyes.  Eye problems were common but this calls to mind another survivor account: “I had a girlfriend and her brother – I don’t know whatever happened to him – he was laying in bed – it seems like that’s all he did all day, laying in bed, and there was white mucus coming out of his eyes.  I don’t think he was ever cared for medically.  I’ve often wondered if he ended up blind, or what happened to him” (ibid., 394).

[84] Wiland and Key Jr. Duncan Campbell Scott’s estimate that ~50% of students at residential schools died has already been mentioned.  Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, says that some schools had death rates as high as 60% (Connie Walker, “New documents may shed light on residential school deaths,” CBC News, January 7, 2014. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Crey and Fournier estimate that, all told, ~42% of the students died (49; they note that the number 24% has been offered elsewhere but this does not account for children who were discharged to hospital or sent to die at home in order to avoid reporting deaths at the schools).  The Bryce report, of 1907, notes all the factors contributing to extremely high death rates of children in the schools (and records a death rate of 75% at one school in Saskatchewan) and calls for massive reforms but the report is buried and ignored.  Bryce went ahead and self-published the Report but to no avail. Cf. Henderson Peter Bryce, The story of a national crime: being an appeal to to justice to the Indians of Canada; the wards of the nation, our allies in the Revolutionary War, our brothers-in-arms in the Great War. Ottawa: James Hope & Sons, Ltd., 1922. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[85] Thus, Rogers in a report from 1922 notes that “Dorothy Montour did not make a good recovery [from a case of Grippe that turned into pneumonia] and was consequently allowed to go home on sick leave” (C-7933-00819).  To pick another example, in 1926, Rogers mentions a girl, Gladys, who has severe Tuberculosis.  He requests direction “regarding the disposal of Gladys” (who is still alive at this point), and J. D. McLean advises immediate discharge to the hospital (C-7935-00895-96).  Sick children discharged to hospital – generally the Lady Willingdon Indian Hospital – were also frequently killed there due to the hiring of unlicensed doctors and the use of Indian patients as “guinea pigs” for experimental procedures (cf. Maureen K. Lux, Separate Beds: A History of Indian Hospitals in Canada, 1920s—19080s [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016], 89).  Reports internal to the hospital reflect an awareness of this.  For example, after a woman died of a heart attack during a hernia operation, the hospital administration notes, “We were fortunate in having a coroner with an unbiased mind, otherwise an inquest might have resulted in undesirable publicity concerning an unqualified anesthetist” (Ibid., 90; emph. in original).  A particularly sad case is this is the story of Reuben Fox was discharged to the hospital due to a mastoid infection.  Reuben was listless, lacked all energy, and was not expected to recover.  His father was called to the hospital – at which point, to the surprise of all the doctors and nurses, Reuben recovered in a remarkable way and his mood completely altered from one of hopelessness to one of joy (“So much did the boy improve that the Doctor thought a complete recovery would result”).  But then Reuben contracted Tubercular Meningitis and died (C-7935-00857-58).  I find this case especially moving because it illustrates just how much better off Reuben was with his father and how totally pointless his death was.  In light of these things, it is hard to read the lists of unspecified discharges found the records (like one from November 1, 1949, where 23 students are discharged; C-7935-00607) without a sense of apprehension bordering on dread.

[86] Wiland and Key Jr.

[87] As Raymond Hill says, “We were punished for a lot of petty things – we shouldn’t have been punished at all” (quoted in Graham, 374).  Emert General agrees: “They punished us for practically nothing” (ibid., 374).  Some were punished just for being sick (ibid., 390).

[88] Of those interviewed by Graham, 31 of 36 identify being strapped (Graham, 23).  This just highlights the physical abuse.  Just as bad, or worse, was the emotional abuse the children suffered due to loneliness, abandonment, and lack of love or care (ibid., 35, 391, 418, 425).  Harrison Burning recalls, “When I first went there I cried and I cried and I cried, but it didn’t help any.  That’s what I say about the kids – one day you’re a boy, the next day you’re a man – look after yourself” (quoted in Graham, 357).  He goes on to say, “I believe it when people say they didn’t learn to love in there.  Like me – I often say “I have no heart” – I have not heart” (ibid., 358; others echo this language of “no love” being present, cf. 398; and of learning to hate, ibid., 403).  Lorna also recalls, “I think the real terrible thing that happened to me – I’m trying to figure out what was the most terrible thing than just being there without a family… There was a lot of feeling of abandonment – aloneness.  Aloneness every day.  That feeling of not having anybody, of being so lonesome.  We knew our Dad and we knew our sister, and we knew what it was like to be with them, and how we felt, and the difference of being there with nobody was really traumatic… My sister was there too with me when I was there.  To hear her lonesome cries – my goodness! – it would have been better if I was there by myself.  She was my father’s baby.  She had turned five when she went.  To hear her cry and to hear her holler “Daddy”, was worse than my lonesomeness.  I used to put my arms around her and say “Don’t cry, don’t cry,” and I’d be crying.  Then we’d both be crying.  She was very much a baby” (ibid., 375, 377).  There was such a lack of care that one former student speaks of liking a teacher because the teacher apologized after viciously strapping him (ibid., 423).

[89] Wiland and Key Jr.  This beating twice as hard was done in order to try and intimidate the children into remaining silent about the sexual abuse they were experiencing.

[90] Moses, Residential School Memoir; Graham, 421.  I also had a friend testify to this in a personal conversation with me in or around 2013.  Electric shock treatment was administered to the children to try and cure bed-wetting (Graham, 366).  One survivor suggests the boys were more prone to wetting their beds because the male staff were “sodomizing them” (ibid., 376, 378).

[91] For example, one of the teachers used to keep a bucket of water by her and if a child did something she didn’t like, she would hold that child’s head under water; on one occasion this resulted in the near drowning of a student (Graham, 381).  Other boys were hung by their wrists from hot water pipes and whipped (ibid., 383).  Zimmerman also writes to the DIA to request permission to do more than simply strap children on their hands when they are disobedient (he wants to spank them on their rear ends).  He is turned down but that did not stop him from earning his nickname “Skin” (C-7933-01850-51).

[92] Susan Gamble, “Tales of the Mush Hole retold,” Brantford Expositor, August 24, 2012. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[93] Moses, Residential School Memoir.  In further efforts to “kill the Indian in the child” there are reports that sterilizations were performed on some students at the school in the early to mid-twentieth century.  There is nothing in the record about this but it fits with Canadian practices of sterilizing Indigenous people elsewhere in the occupied territories of Canada (cf. Karen Stote. An Act of Genocide: Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women [Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2015]).

[94] Wiland and Key Jr; Graham, 416. On this point, it should be observed that tales of a mass grave of students from the Mohawk Institute have been unfounded and those rumours appear to have been spread by an unreliable source using fabricated evidence (cf. Press Release, “Six Nations sets record straight on Woodland Cultural Centre search,” Brantford Expositor, October 18, 2011. Access March 11, 2017.

[95] Multiple student pregnancies show up in the survivor accounts but not in the official records (Graham, 384).

[96] Wiland and Key Jr.; Powless; Casanady.; Brown, Graham, 398, 420, 422, 424.  Rapes also happened elsewhere – including in the chapel (Wiland and Key Jr.).

[97] Wiland and Key Jr.

[98] Wiland and Key Jr.  The children appeared to fear Reformed School even more than the Mohawk Institute (cf. Virve Wiland, e-mail message to the author, February 27, 2017).

[99] Wiland and Key Jr.; Beales.  In the Beales article, Miller is quoted as saying: “I haven’t survived residential school.  I’m still there.  We’re all still there.”  Blanche Hill Easton is also quoted expressing the same sentiment: “We’re never going to heal… we’re like a faceless people in this land.”

[100] Powless; Whitlow.

[101] In I Am Woman, Lee Maracles describes lateral violence in this way: “Lateral violence among Native people is about our anti-colonial rage working itself out in an expression of hate for one another” (Lee Maracle I Am Woman: A Native Perspective on Sociology and Feminism [Toronto: Press Gang, 1996], 11).  Many survivors have vivid memories of experiences of lateral violence (cf. Graham, 366, 368, 382, 392, 400-401, 405, 407-410, 413-414, 426).  Others speak of self-harm being deployed as a means of entertainment (ibid., 416).

[102] Wiland and Key Jr.; Powless; Graham, 259, 419.  Staff and sometimes townspeople would sometimes spectate and place bets on round robin fighting tournaments (where the winner stays in the ring to fight the next contender).  One boy is said to have fought for fourteen hours straight.  On another occasion, a staff member is said to have offered “boxing lessons” to the students.  When they went for their lessons, he beat them unconscious, leaving the floor and walls running with blood (Wiland and Key Jr.).  Principal Rogers appears to have especially enjoyed the boxing and is said to have boxed with the students himself (Graham, 360).

[103] Moses, Residential School Memoir.  See also Brown.  “Gang” affiliations tended to form around what Nation a student came from and what language that student spoke prior to coming to the Institute.  This was encouraged by staff members who started using students to punish runaway students by putting them “through the mill” when they were brought back to the school.  Students had to crawl through the legs of others and the others would hit them with various items, generally causing severe pain.  Students were given further impetus to hurt one another in this way because the students who had not run away would lose privileges due to the runaways (Graham, 387; also 391).

[104] Moses, Residential School Memoir.  But see also this Dec 6, 1947, report about boys being caught engaging in “homo-sex” because it seems to describe an interrupted rape (C-7933-0849).

[105] In other words, far from being stupid, the students very quickly learned the ways of their teachers.  This comes through even in the jokes that are made in letters from former students to their teachers.  A student writing to her teacher, lightheartedly mocks her peers, suggesting in a joking manner that they are worthless.  One cannot help but wonder if this kind of humour is part of the education she received at the school (cf. C-7933-00698-700).  Struggles with having internalized the narrative of their oppressors are still in evidence in survivor accounts.  For example, one states: “I don’t think you got the strap for no reason.  I always used to get the trap mind you – but I was a bad girl” but then goes on to say, “You didn’t do stuff like that [having a boyfriend] – unless you were bad like me.  Actually I wasn’t bad” (Graham, 414-415).  Another remembers: “I remember them getting gifts for being the most improved, or smartest, and I got a gift for being the most improved kid one year, and I got a big lump in my throat and the tears came down because I thought I was bad” (ibid., 416).

[106] By “ritualized abuse” I do not mean abuse that takes place in what is traditionally understood to be an explicit cultic setting.  Rather, I take “ritualized abuse” to refer to something like a routinized (and sometimes formalized) activity of cruelty or violence, which is then related to how people in a specific community identity themselves and their relationships with others.

[107] Consequently, Principals tend to describe the parents of the children as liars and negative influences, and describe the children themselves as “naturally indolent” or “little untutored savages” (Graham, 31).  This kind of discourse persists over the whole history of the school.  In the 1950s, for example, the Bishop of Huron describes the children as “mostly difficult, subnormal and incorrigible” (ibid., 32).  The delousing process was one way of communicating this message to children.  It performed on children who came to the school without lice (generally, lice were picked up after the children arrived; cf. Graham, 383) because it let them know that they were dirty, unclean, and impure (Powless).  As Moses observes: “We were not treated as human beings – we were the Indian who had to become the shining examples of Anglican Christianity” (Moses, “’The most abject human misery.’”).

[108] Thus former student Marjorie J. Groat recalls: “That where the put-down was – you were made to feel that you were not worthy… they [other students] just felt that they were unworthy – didn’t make anything with their lives – they just felt like nothing” (quoted in Graham, 367).

[109] VA.  Thus, Roberta Hill remembers the Sunday chapel services being “all fire and brimstone” (Brown).  The story Hirsch et al. tell about a missionary “telling the Inuit about the fires of hell, only to find they wanted to know how to get to this warm place” illustrates how foreign this kind of fearful, punitive thinking about the Creator was to the peoples of Turtle Island (Hirsch, 9; it does not, as Hirsch supposes, support the claim that Indigenous languages lacked the ability to speak about abstract ideas – it just means that different kinds of abstractions come more easily to different peoples).  As an example of blurring liturgies of violence with explicit Christian theological teachings, observe the story told by one survivor (for what follows, cf. Graham, 381).  A boy had run away and was hiding in the dump where he was eventually caught and brought back to school.  He had “impetigo all over him, and his tongue was swelled up where he couldn’t close his mouth” (apparently “a rat bit his tongue and he was sick and feverish, and he hadn’t been allowed to sleep”) and he was made to sit at the front of the chapel, as a lesson to the other kids, who were told to look at him and sing, Onward Christian Soldiers.

[110] Cf. C-7933-00672; C-7933-00689; C-7933-00704; C-7933-00721; C-7933-00763; C-7933-00801; C-7933-00819; C-7933-00845; C-7933-00904; C-7933-00960; C-7933-00967; C-7933-00994; C-7933-01032; C-7933-010136; C-7933-01073; C-7933-01223; C-7933-01252.

[111] C-7933-00967.

[112] C-7933-00994.

[113] C-7933-01032.

[114] “At present the Chaplain’s duties appear to be to conduct one service each Sunday when weather permits and to prepare candidates for confirmation.  I would suggest that it should be part of his duty to attend at the Institute at least three days in the week to give religious instruction to the pupils” (C-7933-01080).

[115] C-7933-01223.

[116] In 1938, Snell is optimistic about this and the 38 confirmations it has produced.  “There can be no doubt that the emphasis placed upon religious instruction has much to do with the marked improvement in the character of the students” (C-7933-01352).  Snell had made similar remarks in 1931 when angling to get funding for a chapel renovation (“the religious training is having a very decided effect for good in the general conduct of the pupils and is, I am sure you will agree, the most important part of their training”; C-7934-01190). Duncan Campbell Scott turns down the request (C-7934-01192).  However, there is no doubt that statements about the dominance of religion are accurate (Cf. Crey and Fournier, 57; Whitlow).  Thus, speaking of his experience in the mid-‘40s, Russ Moses observes: “Religion was pumped into us at a fast rate, chapel every evening, church on Sundays (twice).  For some years after leaving the Institute, I was under the impression that my tribal affiliation was “Anglican” rather than Delaware” (Moses, Residential School Memoir).

[117] C-7933-00908.

[118] Principal and Reverend Robert Ashton is remembered in his Obituary as “British to the core and to him membership in the Empire was a very dear inheritance” (C-7933-01224).  Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks also received special royal attentions and multiple royal visits.  The Duke of Connaught visited the chapel on Oct 14, 1917.  The Prince of Wales visited on Oct 20, 1919.  The boys provided him with an honour guard and the girls curtsied as he walked between the lines.  The Prince then planted a pine tree at the tomb of Joseph Brant while the kids sang to Mohawk hymns (C-7933-01191).  Note how children, who were beaten if they did not speak English, were then asked to sing in Mohawk to entertain the Prince!  Lord Willingdon (the Governor General of Canada and the Representative of the British Crown) visited with his wife in 1927 after the opening of the Lady Willingdon Indian Hospital (ibid.).

[119] C-7933-01219.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Although the cadets did not form until the 1890s, Principal Reverend Robert Ashton was already using military training models to create a heavily disciplined environment as far back as 1872 when he first became Principal (cf. Habkirk, Evan J. and Janice Forsyth, “Truth, Reconciliation, and the Politics of the Body in Indian Residential School History,” Active History.  Accessed March 11, 2017.; further cf. Wiland and Key Jr.; Government of Canada, Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative.

[122] C-7933-01190.

[123] C-7933-00672.  Star athletes, especially runners, come from the school in 1929 and 1930 (C-7933-01190).  Boy Scouts are formed in 1935 (C-7933-01262).  Girl Guides were also formed at the school from the 1930s onwards (Government of Canada, Mohawk Indian Residential School IAP School Narrative).  On the disbanding and reforming of the cadets cf. “The Cadet Movement,” Great War Centenary Assocation: Brantford-Brant County-Six Nations. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[124] “The Cadet Movement.”  A WWI war memorial lists at 83 people from the Mohawk Institute (ibid.).  In fact, the Mohawks had their own battalion of 350 men in WWI (Hitchin et al., 32).

[125] “The Cadet Movement.” Thus, Habkirk and Forsyth write: “These practices were designed not to instill Aboriginal pride among the students, but rather, to break down their cultural ties and identities by cultivating a new sense of self-awareness structured by Euro-Canadian ideas about how the body should be used, thus producing the taken-for-granted understanding that the properly trained body was that which served dominant economic and military interests and not traditional Aboriginal ways of living” and again, “Continual drilling and military appearance taught the children how to follow orders; how to live a regimented life structured by the clock; how to obey their superiors and respect the established hierarchy, including the junior ranking officers who were put in place to police the other students; and how to regulate their bodies through the rehearsal of prescribed movements” (Habkirk & Forsyth).

[126] Ibid.

[127] This is not hyperbolic – the actions of the Canadian Government in conjunction with the Anglican Church and the New England Company, fit the definition of genocide established by the Office of the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide. Cf. “Legal definition of genocide” in Analysis Framework. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[128] The last Indian Residential School, Gordon’s School in Saskatchewan, closed in 1996.  It was also run by the Anglicans in conjunction with the federal government (cf. Anglican Church of Canada, “Gordon’s School—Punnichy, SK” In Truth and Reconciliation: Anglican Indian and Eskimo Residential Schools (Toronto: General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, 2017). Accessed March 11, 2017. (

[129] Cf. Glen Coulthard. Red Skins: White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014).

[130] For Harper’s apology on behalf of the Government of Canada, cf., Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper offers full apology on behalf of Canadians for the Indian Residential School System. Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools (Ottawa, June 11, 2008). Accessed March 11, 2017.  Regarding Harper’s comments to the G20, see David Ljunggren, “Every G20 nation wants to be Canada, insists PM,” Reuters, September 25, 2009. Accessed March 11, 2017. For more on Harper’s legislations, see some of the summary I provided at Daniel Oudshoorn, “A Blog Commentary on Luke’s Gospel Written for Settlers in the Occupied Territories Called Canada (Part 3)”, Blog post, September 16, 2016. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[131] For the apology, cf. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “RCMP Apology,” May 2004. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Note the wording of the apology, which is much more terse and guarded than Harper’s apology (“I… am truly sorry for what role we played in the residential school system” (emph. added) – this is not the same as saying “I… am truly sorry for the role we played in the residential school system” and leaves things sounding more ambiguous and open to debate).  For an example of RCMP conduct in relation to Indigenous women, cf., Human Rights Watch, Those Who Take Us Away: Abusive Policing and Failures in Protection of Indigenous Women and Girls in Northern British Columbia, Canada (USA, 2013). Accessed March 11, 2017. The deployment of the RCMP at Indigenous protest sites – from Kanasatake (Oka) in 1990 to Elsipogtog in 2013 and everywhere else in between – also suggests not much has changed.  The RCMP was also very resistant to initiating any investigation into the high rates of Missing and Murdered Indigenous in Canada.  Now that an inquiry has been ordered, they have sought to ensure that their own officers will not be investigated.  For pushback against that, cf., Steven Zhou, “You can’t investigate MMIW without looking at police conduct, Steven Zhou writes,” CBC News, July 24, 2016. Accessed March 11, 2017.

[132] Hitchin et al., 45.  In fact, in the same text, the NEC suggests that the implementation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was a “ticking bomb” that allowed for a regrettable shift from “the legislative to the judicial branch of the constitution, and encouraged lawsuits instead of lobbying” (ibid., 44-45).  After the Mohawk Institute Class Action lawsuit was settled in 2006 (after survivors and their lawyers fought the government, the Anglican Church and the New England Company for seven years in Court), the NEC managed to escape without having to pay anything other than Court costs; cf. McKenzie Lake Lawyers, “Executive Summary of the Agreement,” May 10, 2006. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Further to that lawsuit, which was then applied to other residential school survivors in Canada, and impacted the Anglican Church, the United Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Roman Catholic Church, cf. McKenzie Lake Lawyers, “Agreement in Principle,” May 10, 2006. Accessed March 11, 2017.  Note that as of 2016, the federal Government allowed the Roman Catholic Church to renege on $20 million of what it owed; as per Gloria Galloway, “Ottawa called out on residential-school shortfall,” The Globe and Mail, April 18, 2016. Accessed March 11, 2017. Further, payments to survivors from twenty-two different schools, including the Mohawk Institute, are currently “on hold” due to “administrative splits.” Cf. Indian Residential Schools, Adjudication Secretary, “Claims on hold because of Administrative Splits to be released by March 6, 2017,” Independent Assessment Process, February 3, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2017. No further updates have been provided to say that, in fact, these claims have now been released.  The NEC is quick to point out, however, that “the First Nations” extended forgiveness to the Anglican Church of Canada in 2001, and takes this to mean that now “it is surely inappropriate” to refer to any twenty-first century “Missions to native Indians” as “expressions of cultural imperialism” (Hitchin et al., 47).

[133] Cf. Anglican Church of Canada, “A message from Primate, Archbishop Michael Peters, to the National Native Convocation, Minaki, Ontario, Friday, August 6, 1993” in Truth and Reconciliation: The Apology—English (Toronto: The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, 2017). Accessed March 11, 2017.

[134] Cf. Anglican Church of Canada, “The Mohawk Institute—Brantford, ON” in Truth and Reconciliation: Anglican Indian and Eskimo Residential Schools (Toronto: The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, 2017). Accessed March 11, 2017. Note that the content on this site was created in September, 2008, three months after Stephen Harper’s apology and fifteen years after the Archbishop’s apology.  The content of this site reminds me of a personal conversation that took place with a history professor at Regent College in Vancouver circa 2004.  When questioned about Anglican involvement in residential schools he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, at least they got an education.”  The reader is now well-equipped to understand what kind of education “they got” (indeed, it is likely that the professor was well aware of the kind of education the children received, it’s just that the genocidal violence did not matter to him as much as a defense of Christianity for accusations that it could be involved in such things).  Such attitudes persist.  As I was completing my edits of this paper, a Canadian Senator, Lynn Beyak, spoke in defense of residential schools as “well-intentioned” and stated that she was disappointed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission because “it didn’t focus on the good” (cf. John Paul Tasker, “Conservative senator defends ‘well-intentioned’ residential school system,” CBC News, March 8, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2017.  An Indigenous Member of Parliament, Romeo Saganash, has pointed out that this is akin to excusing the Holocaust (cf. John Paul Tasker, “Senator’s defense of residential schools akin to excusing Holocaust, NDP MP says,” CBC News, March 9, 2017. Accessed March 11, 2017.  A further contributing factor here is the ways in which Indigenous people tend to be portrayed in both the Canadian media and in inquests related to them.  Further to that cf. Mark Cronlund Anderson and Carmen L. Robertson. Seeing Red: A History of Natives in Canadian Newspapers (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2011); and Sherene H. Razack. Dying From Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015).

[135] Beales.  Calvin Sault, after mentioning how Zimmerman stole the Christmas gifts a local club had delivered to the children, says that the Queen had sent Centennial medals to the students of the school but that Zimmerman also took them away.  He concludes: “Today the Church is not owning up to the problems we had there – an apology.  Rather than an apology they could give me back my toy.  I wouldn’t be happier than if they’d give me my toy back and my medal.  An apology is like a voice on a windy day” (Graham, 401).



  1. I very much hope that this will be read widely and that christian settler ideology may be wiped out from the land. I say that knowing that most people like me will need to die off for that to happen. Was this the final project Dan? Did you seek to do any interviews with Native adults who had been through the schools death-dealing “liturgy” (that paragraph on “liturgy” really stands out for me). I have met with several over the years with mixed responses. The church left a “model” classroom set up at its Red Cloud school at Pine Ridge for folks to tour and get some idea of how terrible children were treated. Have you sought publication in journals? Blessings in your work.

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