NEWS arrow Human bones unearthed at Woodland, groups say

Human bones unearthed at Woodland, groups say

Written by Hugo Rodrigues

The Mohawk InstituteHuman bones have been found on the site of the former Mohawk Institute, according to the Mohawk Nation.

And a spokesman says the bones belong to First Nations children who were students at the residential school, which operated there until 1970.

The former Mohawk Institute, on Mohawk Street, is now the Woodland Cultural Centre.

A YouTube statement and subsequent media release from the Mohawk Nation and an international group say that test archeological pits dug on the grounds unearthed human remains described as a series of 16 bones, one of which is "definitely human."

Parts of the YouTube video show what's believed to be a portion of a child's humerus or tibia, which are bones of the arm. The written statement refers to other bones potentially being vertebrae from an adolescent.

But, in a release, the groups say they won't allow outside police or government officials to confirm the find "because of their complicity in this crime."

Kevin Annett, a former United Church minister invited by some elders of the Mohawk Nation to the Woodland site, said that an archeologist is now working to confirm the findings.

Annett is one of the main people behind the International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State, established last year to seek accountability from the Vatican and the Anglican Church for "the historic genocide of indigenous peoples at the hands of European Christendom."

Annett and the others involved in the search are on the property with the permission of the Mohawk Nation, one of the First Nations that operates the Woodland Cultural Centre grounds.

"This can be a difficult thing to face when it's in your own backyard.... You need to neutrally look at the situation," Annett said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"The fact of the bones puts this into a different light-not just bones but bones that are confirmed to be human."

The remains were found within a depth of under a metre, in an area where ground-penetrating radar equipment had shown the soil had been disturbed and wasn't settled in a way that is consistent with the surrounding area.

Annett said that former residents of the residential school had told the group the area where the remains were found had been where people had been buried.

He said that the depth at which the remains were found does cast some doubt as to whether the bones might belong to former students or could have found there way there at a different time. Buttons, and other items from clothing matching what the students would have worn, were found in the same area.

Some of the bones have been sent away for forensic and DNA analysis to confirm the findings of the consulting archeologist, who determined them to be human. Others remain in the custody of the Mohawk Nation.

Annett said that further digging at the site has been stopped until the results of that testing are available.

He said that a lack of faith in the Canadian court system has led to an international call for other forensic and archeological experts to help confirm the findings.

"There are a number of groups in the U.S. and Europe where the offer to help is being made," Annett said.

"There is a group with experience (in burial sites) in Bosnia who've offered to come in and help."

The search continues for documents from the London diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada, which ran the school but hasn't responded to Annett's requests. The documents would help confirm accounts of what different parts of the former residential school site were used for while the school was running.

The Mohawk Institute was one of dozens of residential schools across Canada attended by tens of thousands of native children forcibly removed from their homes.

The last one closed in 1996.

The "Brantford Expositor" article

Last Updated Tuesday, 20 November 2012


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