New Survivors Secretariat logo features the apples Mohawk Institute students weren't allowed to eat
Secretariat hopes that more survivors' stories will help inform their investigation
The Survivors' Secretariat in Six Nations, Ont., has started a new campaign to introduce a logo and increase its social media presence.
The Secretariat was established in 2021 to support survivors of the Mohawk Institute, Canada's longest running residential school.
The former residential school in Brantford, Ont, run by the Anglican Church and later the Government of Canada, was in operation for 136 years from 1828 to 1970.
Six Nations-based artist Artie K. Martin designed the logo for the Secretariat.
The eight elements of the logo include: footprints representing the children, the apple orchard where the children were forced to work, a woman's face which represents the parents, a child wrapped in a moss bag, stars representing the Seven Dancers (a constellation from the Haudenosaunee culture), the staircase and the door leading to the institute and finally, moccasins on the steps for the children they are still searching for.
Martin worked directly with survivors on the design. Martin, who has family who attended the residential school, said he was compelled to create a logo that was both accurate but also a good reflection of the survivors' input.
"They talked about the first time they walked into the mush hole and how that door was so ominous," he said.
"That door was like a big part of their life because that was the first thing they'd see when their when their lives were about to be changed."
He also included traditional elements specific to the survivors' Haudenosaunee culture such as the circle, the Seven Dancers and the Grandmother moon.
Tabitha Curley, the Survivors Secretariat's director of communications, also had family who attended the Mohawk Institute.
She said her role motivates her "to do justice for the children who attended [the school] and the children who didn't return."
Curley said the Secretariat's goal to promote their logo on social media is to bring survivors of the institute together and to create "a place for them to see themselves and to be involved and feel invited."
She said the Secretariat also hopes that these survivors' stories will help inform their investigation for missing children and upcoming ground search efforts.
Child labour in the apple orchard
One of the more prominent elements in the logo are the apples which symbolize the apple orchard next to the school where the children were forced to work, harvesting the crop for the institution's revenue.
Often hungry, the children were punished severely for eating the apples.
"That's where that child labour piece really comes into place because if they weren't getting the foundational seed money from the government or the churches, they would put the kids to work," said Teri Morrow, a registered dietitian on Six Nations of the Grand River.
Her mother and family members attended the Mohawk Institute.
She's one of the collaborators along with Bonnie Freeman, an associate professor at McMaster University and Sandra Juutilainen, an assistant professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, in a research project on gardens, farming and food experiences at the Mohawk Institute. It examines oral testimony of survivors and community initiatives designed to improve food security in First Nations.
Morrow said, based on her research, she believes the apple orchard and the trees lining the path leading up to the institute stood as a symbol of prosperity to the children and parents upon first arriving there.
"That very westernized apple orchard" and its juxtaposition with the traditional foods available nearby like wild strawberries and blueberries, she said, is a testament to the loss of traditional Indigenous food practices.
The research will be presented at an Indigenous health conference in Australia in June and will be included in the book Behind the Bricks: The Lives and Times of the Mohawk Institute, the Model for the Canadian Residential School System which will be published later this year.
"By sharing information about what happened and seeing the bravery of some of the survivors who are willing to share their stories, it starts creating this space for families to start having these conversations. Late, maybe, but better than never," said Curley.