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Search of Mohawk Institute Residential School grounds begins


WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The search for missing children on more than 200 hectares of land once associated with the Mohawk Institute Residential School is set to begin today.

A pair of ground-penetrating radar machines will be used to scan the ground in a grid pattern around where the building stands today in Brantford, Ont. The Mohawk Institute was one of Canada’s oldest and longest-running residential schools, abducting and abusing children from 20 First Nation communities, according to the Survivors’ Secretariat.

The first target of the search was selected following the guidance of survivors, a mapping exercise and a review of archival records.

“This is heavy work that needs to be done,” said survivor Sherlene Bomberry in a media release.

“As survivors we take comfort in knowing that this sacred work is being done in a good way with our community members’ participation. We have been clear that the search must be survivor-led and community-involved.”

Search teams are made up of community members and Six Nations police officers who have been trained to use the gear.

The grids they’ll search along were outlined with help from the OPP’s search master.

All of the work is being overseen by Beverly Jacobs — associate dean of the University of Windsor’s faculty of law and a former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada — who is acting as Indigenous human rights monitor, as well as Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe cultural monitors.

Members of the Survivor’s Secretariat, which is overseeing the search, previously told CBC that it could take more than a year to completely search the large area, with winter weather and the terrain listed as challenges they may encounter.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools and those who are triggered by these reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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