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Huge investigation welcomes a Mohawk

The former executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada, Kanesatake’s Kimberly Murray, has been chosen to lead an investigation at the former Mohawk Institute residential school.

As Murray was already assisting significantly with these investigations in Six Nations prior to her new role, putting her as the lead felt like a natural next step.

“I’m on with them for a year, trying to set it up and to help them, but ultimately the plan is for a Six Nations member to head the organization,” she said.

With her expertise and institutional knowledge of the TRC, Murray was hired to set up the Survivor Secretariat.

The mandate of the secretariat is a follows:

1) Coordinate the death investigation process and protocols

2) Facilitate statement gathering and community statements

3) Oversee research and document collection

4) Report back to the broader survivor community and leadership

5) Establish commemoration activity and policies

6) Nation-to-nation dialogue

This secretariat is intended to be a permanent and ongoing organization, as the community wants to take ownership of the records to make them more accessible.

As the Mohawk Institute was the first and longest-running residential school in Canada, it is likely to have the highest number of distinct communities affected.

Murray and her team are currently working on a list of communities involved, Kahnawake being one of them.

Murray explained that health, wellness and ceremony are going to be a large part of the secretariat.

“The intention is to have a body that will assist with the cultural ceremony as nothing is going to start on the searching grounds without a ceremony first.”

As the investigation is being done over 500 acres, they are still speaking with experts and archeologists to ensure they approach everything as efficiently as possible.

The team is seeking financial resources from the Canadian government as well as Ontario and Quebec.

They have a multi-jurisdictional police task force, meaning the provincial police services are involved, along with First Nations and municipal services. The municipal and Indigenous police services are both led by Intergenerational survivors, and the Ontario Provincial Police has many resources, together creating a formidable team.

Murray explained one tool that will assist them throughout the investigation is called “PowerCase,” which links people and offenders and allows for cross-referencing, looking at students, employees, statements, among others. Tools and resources like this can help speed up the investigative process and find concrete answers.

Murray explained that at the end of the day, the most critical information comes from the survivors and the survivor’s families.

“The more it gets out in the news, the more people keep contacting us. We need to get the message out to more people.”

Contact Murray if you or your family members have any information or tips that you are willing to share: kimberly@survivorssecretariat.ca.

calliegiaccone@gmail.com

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