Memorial forms at front steps of former residential school in Brantford

Shoes, stuffed animals, and promises to never forget could be seen at the front steps of a former residential school in Brantford on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The building is now the Woodland Cultural Centre, meant to preserve and promote Indigenous history, art, language, and culture, but was once the Mohawk Institute that ran from 1831 to 1970.

The centre was closed Thursday as it ran virtual programming, but had many coming to pay respects and add items to the growing memorial.

Geronimo Henry, a survivor of the residential school, was also outside.

He was at the Mohawk Institute from 1942-1953, and has been coming regularly to the grounds ever since the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools to talk with people and answer their questions.

He says that while it’s meaningful to see so many people paying their respects, more needs to be done.

“Deep inside, I’m still hurting like it was just yesterday, it doesn’t go away,” said Henry. “The government needs to do more than just set a day aside for you. What’s that going to do? Is that going to heal me? Is that going to give me 11 years back? I lost my language and my culture and my own right to believe what I believe in.”

Plans have been made to search the grounds of the property in the future.