How a former residential school is being transformed into a place for healing – TVO

The Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save the Evidence campaign is working to turn the former Mohawk Institute into a space for learning and reconciliation

The former Mohawk Institute is tucked away in a quiet part of Brantford, surrounded by a wide expanse of lawn. Until June 1970, it was a residential school, one of 17 established in Ontario. Today, only one other such structure remains, in Sault Ste. Marie. Most have been demolished: communities wanted them gone. They were a physical reminder of state-sanctioned suffering, broken families, and cultural traditions pushed to the brink of extinction. But this 114-year-old red-brick building was saved so that no one will ever forget its past.

After the school was closed nearly 50 years ago, it reopened in 1972 as the Woodland Cultural Centre, an organization dedicated to preserving and supporting First Nations history and culture. Up until recently, the structure was used for office space, and tours led by former students of the residential school were offered to the public. But it needed major repairs: the roof leaked, and electrical, heating, and plumbing systems had not been updated since the 1940s and ’50s. (A separate, newer building, once used for lessons for the residential school, remains open and now serves as a space for performances and art exhibitions.)

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