These Schools Are Our Holocaust: Bearing Witness to the Mohawk Residential School

On Saturday, June 4, a group of community members from Queen Street Yoga visited the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford and were given a tour of the Mohawk Residential School. It was our intention to bear witness to the stories of the place, acknowledge the history of the land, and learn more about the brutal history of Canada’s treatment of Indigenous/First Nations/Native/Original Peoples. This post is a reflection about the experience written by QSY Co-Director, Emma Dines.

“This place feels like a raw wound. Nothing has even begun to heal here.”

We sat on the grass outside the Mohawk Residential school on a beautifully warm Saturday in June. Amanda is one of the meditation teachers at Queen Street Yoga, and in our closing circle she compared her visit to this school to her visit to Dachau. A few years ago on a trip to Germany, she and her husband went to witness the gas chambers, barracks, and slave yards of the infamous concentration camp. She said that she felt the same horror and rawness walking through the hallways of the residential school here. Amanda grew up near Galt and was ten years old when the Mohawk Residential School was finally closed in 1970. “I never knew this place was here,” she said. “I didn’t know it existed.”

This school is our Dachau. This school is our concentration camp. Continue reading

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Acknowledging the Land We Practice On

This post was co-authored by our studio directors Leena Miller Cressman & Emma Dines, with input from Luane Lentz, Cheryl Maksymyk, and Jaydum Hunt at the Waterloo Aboriginal Education Centre.

mohawk residential schoolLast year the Canadian government acknowledged the reality and harm of Residential Schools in the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Canadians were invited to read the text of the Commission to understand the real harm that Indigenous Peoples in Canada endured. Another part of that story started earlier. The past and ongoing reality is that the ancestral land of Indigenous people has been seized, environmentally exploited, and extracted from, and many treaties and agreements between the Crown (which refers to all Canadians) and Indigenous groups were dishonoured.

Yoga means to unite or connect. The purpose of a personal yoga practice might be to listen to, bring together, and acknowledge the various parts of ourselves, including the parts that we might label uncomfortable, unworthy, or imperfect. We might also choose to extend that part of our yoga practice to the world around us, and encourage ourselves to bring together the various parts of our societal reality that might be uncomfortable, vulnerable, or unjust. We might participate in a collective practice that seeks to listen to, acknowledge, and address injustices.

The ongoing story of land in Canada is uncomfortable and hard to acknowledge. It has a complex history with current impacts. What are ways that we might be accountable and responsive to these realities?

Continue reading