In towns throughout Ontario, there are Colonization Roads that carried 19th century settlers to new lands, but today stand as startling reminders of the colonization of Indigenous territories and the displacement of First Nations people.
In the award-winning film “Colonization Road,” Anishinaabe comedian and activist Ryan McMahon takes us to his hometown of Fort Frances and other Ontario communities with Colonization Roads. He explores the history of these roads, meets with settlers in solidarity and raises significant questions about “reconciliation” and what it means to “decolonize.”
The film will be presented on Wednesday, Sept. 27 in Brantford to open the 2017-18 lecture series of the Friends and Neighbours Group, a grassroots committee of volunteers supporting the Woodland Cultural Centre’s Save The Evidence Campaign. The lectures are presented in association with Laurier Brantford.
The free screening will be at 7 p.m. in Room RCE 004 in the Research and Academic Centre, Laurier Brantford, 150 Dalhousie St.
Save the Evidence is a capital campaign to raise awareness and support for the repair and renovation of the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School. The campaign is in response to devastating roof leaks, which caused significant damage to the interior and exterior of the building. The Mohawk Institute operated as a residential school from 1828 until its closure in 1970. It is currently undergoing the first of three phases of renovation.
Colonization Road, directed by Michelle St. John, has been called “a powerful and prescient reckoning with Canadian history.”
“It is often very funny, and often very painful,” wrote Adele Perry, a history professor at the University of Manitoba.
The goal of the lecture series is to educate people and promote a community dialog about the Mohawk Institute and reconciliation, said Rob Knechtel, vice-chair of Friends and Neighbours, who is co-ordinating the series.
“This year we want to focus on the question of decolonization,” said Knechtel. “We all have to move in that direction as individuals. We have to do the work ourselves.”
Future events include:
· Oct. 25: Presentation of the film “In Jesus’ Name: Shattering the Silence of St. Anne’s Residential School.” Susan Enberg, director of the documentary about the school in Fort Albany First Nation, will be on hand to discuss the film.
· Nov. 22: Retired Justice James Kent, of the Ontario Superior Court, who presided over cases involving Six Nations land claims, will speak on “The Potential for Reconciliation of Land Claims, Treaty Obligations and Common Ground.”
More lectures will take place in early 2018 with details to be announced later. All lectures are free, open to the public and take place in Room RCE 004 in the Research and Academic Centre, Laurier Brantford, 150 Dalhousie St.
The first Friends and Neighbours lecture series in 2016-17 attracted hundreds of people to hear presentations by Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, historian Nathan Tidridge, former Ontario premier and federal MP Bob Rae, Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice and Amos Key Jr., First Nations Language Director of the Woodland Cultural Centre.
After its closure in 1970, the former Mohawk Institute reopened as the Woodland Cultural Centre, which operates as a museum, gallery, and cultural hub for indigenous history, language, education, art, and contemporary culture. The Save the Evidence campaign has received support from Six Nations Elected Council, the City of Brantford and the Province of Ontario, as well as from individuals and organizations
About 150,000 First Nations children were removed from their homes in the 19th and 20th centuries and sent to the mainly church-run schools, sometimes hundreds of miles from home. The children were forced to abandon their own language and culture in order to be assimilated into Canadian society. They lived in substandard conditions and endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse. When they ultimately returned home – sometimes after a decade or more – they were outsiders in their own communities.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, led by Justice Murray Sinclair, delivered a report in 2015 that contained 94 “calls to action” on ways that all people — indigenous and non-indigenous — can work to heal the wounds left by the residential school system.
(Release from “Friends and Neighbours of Save the Evidence.”)