Touring Canada's Dark History

Before beginning a guided virtual tour of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School, Cultural Interpreter Faye Johnson told Alicia Hawryluk’s Grade 10 history students to prepare for what they were about to learn. “There is some information that could be disturbing for you,” she said, alluding to the powerful, traumatic stories that were about to emerge. The one-hour tour took place on December 1. 

The tour exists to preserve, understand and teach about this dark period in Canadian history. Since 1972, the former school has been known as the Woodland Cultural Centre, which promotes, protects, interprets and conserves the history, language, intellect and cultural heritage of the Anishinaabe and the Onkwehón:we.

During the video, tour guide Lorrie Gallant brought to life every corner of the residential school building, from its grand front steps to the tiny attic corners where students would sometimes hide. Five former residential school survivors shared personal stories of abuse, neglect and escape. Following the tour, Crescent students asked questions and explored what they had just seen with Johnson. Ms. Hawryluk gathered personal reflections from her students after the tour experience which illustrated the depth of learning that took place. She shared this submission from one of her students: “My previous knowledge on this topic was from textbooks that told us about the tragedies, but hearing about them from the survivors themselves gave us a new perspective on this situation.”