I am Rawennatshani, an adopted member of the Turtle clan of the Onkwehonwe Nation of the Grand River. My English name is Kevin Annett and my ancestral name is Caoimhin Ui Niall of the Gaelic Nation, Clan O’Neill.
I ask that the blessings and presence of my ancestors, and yours, guide my words to you so that you may receive and understand them in truth.
Last April, I was asked in writing by elders of the Turtle and Wolf clans of the Onkwehonwe Nation to come to their territory for two reasons: to help them bring home for a proper burial the remains of children who died and are buried at the former Mohawk Indian residential school in Brantford, and to help determine how they died so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
It has always been my purpose to follow the protocols of the Nation and be led by the wishes of elders and survivors of the “Mush Hole” residential school, and I have done so from the beginning of my time among you.
On October 1, I commenced this work under the direction and authority of clan mothers of the Nation. Our work has consisted of scanning the grounds of the school for evidence of graves, doing research, and conducting a test dig on grounds far from the school. We have not so far uncovered the remains of any human being.
The fact that we have commenced this work is historic and a turning point in the relations between our nations, and therefore it is essential that the truth of what we are doing and uncovering be made known to the world.
In doing so, the feelings and memories aroused by our work among survivors and others must be treated respectfully and with understanding, while recognizing that only the truth of what occurred at the Brantford school, and elsewhere, can set us all free.
It is unfortunate but to be expected that some people, and elements within various levels of government and the church that ran the Mush Hole school and who are legally and morally liable for the deaths of the children there, are seeking now to misrepresent me and the work we are doing.
It has been claimed publicly by these people, without proof, that I, a non-native, have arrived uninvited to your territory with a shovel in my hand to “dig up children” at the school. A genuine fear campaign is being stoked to discredit our important work, and focus the attention on me rather than the countless children lying under the ground at the school. But the issue at hand is not me at all, but the crimes against humanity inflicted by the churches and Crown of England on entire indigenous nations, including yours.
I ask those who are responsible for spreading lies and misinformation, and those who are misled by such fear-mongering, to remember again what is at stake, and how many children’s spirits look to us to give them final rest and recognition.
I should make clear, too, that in their zeal to share what we are uncovering and support our efforts, some media outlets have overstated our findings and made reference to our opening mass graves of children. Let me state, clearly, that we have not excavated any such graves, although on the basis of much evidence we do believe that the grounds of the Mush Hole school constitute an enormous mass grave of children who died there.
In order to avoid further rumors and misunderstanding, I urge all people of good will to ask the members of our community, and its elders, for clarification of events as they happen, by speaking to them and to Bill Squire directly at 519-757-3624.
I am pleased to report that the example set by the Onkwehonwe people has been taken up by other nations, who are now planning to begin repatriating children from burial sites at other former residential schools across “Canada”.
I look forward to returning to your community in mid November to continue the mandate given to me by elders, clan mothers and residential school survivors.
Please contact me if you wish to discuss this or seek clarification about anything I’ve said.
All my relations,
I am Rawennatshani