The minister of St. John’s Anglican Church in Six Nations of the Grand River said she’s pushing for the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit Six Nations of the Grand River.
Rosalyn Elm told CBC News the reason the archbishop didn’t visit earlier as planned is because he didn’t follow protocol that involves being invited by elected council, traditional chiefs and faith keepers.
Another reason the meeting was cancelled is because survivors of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ont., said they would not participate unless the Anglican Church committed to financing Indigenous language revitalization and releasing all records held in England.
Some heard the Archbishop of Canterbury reiterate an apology for residential schools in a private meeting with members of Six Nations and other Mohawk communities in Toronto on Tuesday.
The day before, the archbishop said he would ensure any residential school-related records held by the Anglican Church in England are released.
Elm, who is also the archdeacon for truth of reconciliation and Indigenous ministries at the Diocese of Huron, was present Tuesday. She said it was hard to describe how she felt hearing his apology.
“This apology is historically important, but we also know it’s the beginning. Words are words … we’ll see where that leads,” she said.
This also comes on the same day the provincial government announced $1.6 million to fund the search for potential unmarked graves at the former Mohawk Institute.
It’s the province’s first financial contribution to the search and is far below the $9 million over three years requested by the Survivors’ Secretariat, which is leading search efforts.
Michael Montour is from Six Nations of the Grand River. His relatives attended the residential school. He said he accepted the apology.
“He promised to do his best and … to do whatever he can to make a change. To put in action the apology,” Montour said.
“Our families have suffered for generations because of the residential school. For something to finally happen is really good, especially for the language.”
Residential schools were an attempt to assimilate Indigenous culture. Montour said the archbishop wants to try and reverse that.
Montour said one consequence of the residential schools is there are only a handful of people in Six Nations who still speak Mohawk, but he’s trying to learn it to save the language from disappearing.
He said the archbishop mentioned there may be some money going toward revitalizing Indigenous languages.
Montour said he left his teaching job to try to re-learn the language. He hopes funding becomes available to help him and other students to pay for it.
“Our whole life is based on our longhouse ceremonies and we only speak the language [there], so if we lose our language, we lose our ceremonies. If we don’t have that connection to the creators … the world will end, that’s how serious it is.”
Elm said she’d like to hear acknowledgement from the Royal Family, as well as more listening and reparations.
“It doesn’t stop here, that’s for sure.”