SAT 9 SEPT AT 2PM
THE FILM HOUSE AT FIRSTONTARIO PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE
In the current development of an Interpretation Plan and Design for the Mohawk Institute Residential School, this program will provide insights, in real time, to a profoundly important project, not only for the Indigenous nation and community of Six Nations of the Grand River, but also for the survivors of numerous other First Nations whose children were sent to the school, as well as all within Canadian society who seek understanding of the impacts and legacy of Indian residential schools. Given Canada’s national mandate arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s extensive research, including its 94 Calls to Action, the significance of this work cannot be overstated.
Such locations reside in the interstices of history when and where a societal desire seeks to prevent the erasure of memories in order that future generations are able to learn critical lessons from the past. In accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action in 2015, and the mandate provided by Six Nations of the Grand River’s community survey and engagement process, where the vast majority of respondents supported its restoration, the Woodland Cultural Centre assumed responsibility for redeveloping the Mohawk Institute building and designing an informative, meaningful, and effective interpretive educational site and program for the public.
The approach to the Mohawk Institute Residential School site interpretation is to treat the building as an artifact and to create exhibits that accurately represent the experiences of the survivors who were placed there. This program, led by Heather George, executive director of the Woodland Cultural Centre, Tim Johnson, project director of the Phase Four interpretation planning, design, fabrication, and installation of the build-out of the visitor experience, and historian Rick Hill, will lead a panel that explores the history of the Mohawk Institute along with visual previews of what the public can expect to see when its doors open in two years.
Heather George is a mother, gardener, beader, curator, and PhD Candidate. As a scholar of Euro-Canadian and Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) descent who grew up off reserve, much of Heather’s personal and professional work has been directed at gaining a better understanding of the culture and history of her nation. Her current PhD research through University of Waterloo examines the historical and philosophical underpinnings of contemporary museum practices across Haudenosaunee communities. She seeks to better understand how material culture can be used to heal trauma and make space for cross-cultural dialogues. In 2019 Heather was awarded the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her research. Heather has spent over a decade working for urban and reserve based Indigenous organizations in the Six Nations of the Grand River territory focused on cultural preservation, heritage, and youth resiliency. Heather also recently took on the role of Executive Director of the Woodland Cultural Center in Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.
Nicholas Roland, creative director and senior designer at WeatherstonBruer Associates brings a passion for learning to all of his work. Exhibit design runs through his veins and he has the experience in managing the complex development process from concept design to opening day. He believes that the heart of the project comes from the project team and it is the designer’s role to bring diverse ideas into a physical reality.
“Good design is not an ego driven activity; it is a collective process that an entire team should feel ownership over.”
Nick’s enthusiasm for his projects is evident in all of his work. He works closely with project stakeholders and pursues thoughtful design solutions that satisfy the many, often competing, features of each exhibit project. After over a decade of experience designing exhibits, Nick understands the importance of creating a strong aesthetic vision that will bring a story to life and create an emotional engagement with visitors.
After studying Biology at the University of Ottawa and Environmental Design at Dalhousie University, Nick graduated with a Masters of Architecture from the University of Toronto. He started his work life as a set builder, graduated to a designer and fabricator, and finally to senior exhibition designer at WeatherstonBruer. Nick has overseen projects in Canada, the United States, and abroad.
Richard Hill is a renowned educator of Indigenous cultures, histories, and arts whose visionary work shaped the programming of several influential educational institutions including Deyohahá:ge: the Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian where he served as Assistant Director for Public Programs, Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe where he served as Director, Native American Center for the Living Arts where he served as Museum Director, Niagara Falls Museums as an historian and advisor, and as a master lecturer at several post-secondary institutions including McMaster University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Six Nations Polytechnic, and First Nations Technical Institute among many others. As an accomplished artist, researcher, and writer Rick serves as an Indigenous Innovations Specialist, currently advising on a number of projects for Mohawk College. Rick is a citizen of the Tuscarora Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, residing at the Grand River Territory.
Tim Johnson, artistic producer of Celebration of Nations, is senior advisor to the Niagara Parks Commission for Heritage and Legacy and Indigenous programming, and senior advisor to Plenty Canada and Friends of Laura Secord. He also serves as senior Indigenous curatorial advisor to the Royal Ontario Museum. In addition, he is project director on the Phase 4 Interpretation Plan — including exhibit design, fabrication, installation, and visitor experience — leading to the establishment of the Mohawk Institute Residential School as a site of conscience, open to the public for learning and reflection. This is a profoundly important project, not only for Six Nations of the Grand River and the Indigenous communities whose children were placed at the Mohawk Institute, but for all within Canadian society who seek understanding of the impacts and legacy of Indian residential schools. Given Canada’s national mandate arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s extensive research, including its 94 Calls to Action, the significance of this work cannot be overstated.
Within the Niagara Region Mr. Johnson served as Co-chair of Landscape of Nations: The Six Nations & Native Allies Commemorative Memorial, unveiled on October 2, 2016, in Queenston Heights Park, and was instrumental in the development of several subsequent legacy spaces and public artworks including the First Nations Peace Monument in Thorold, Voices of Freedom Park in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the modern art masterwork Curtain Call, installed on the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines. He is also active on additional forthcoming historically and culturally important public spaces that will be dedicated to Indigenous peoples, including Misko-Aki: Confluence of Cultures, a permanent exhibition detailing Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabek, Métis, and Haudenosaunee history and contemporary life in the Muskoka region, and updating of the Daphne Cockwell Gallery dedicated to First peoples’ art and culture at the Royal Ontario Museum.
Prior to this relatively recent activity, Mr. Johnson was the Associate Director for Museum Programs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian. The Museum Programs Group was the museum’s largest organizational group, structured across two fully programmed facilities in Washington D.C. and New York, encompassing exhibitions, education, interpretive services, publications, film and media production, seminars and symposia, and visual and performing arts programs. During his tenure at the museum, he successfully supervised popular and critically acclaimed exhibits ranging in cost from $15,000 to $5.65 million representing myriad orientations from ethnography and history to contemporary arts. One of his most popular exhibitions, Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians In Popular Culture, was an art and history exhibit as told through the biographies of Indigenous artists whose contributions helped to shape several music genres since the mid 20th Century. This exhibit served as the basis for the Sundance, Hot Docs, and Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television award-winning documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, that has inspired the live concert performances curated for Celebration of Nations.
Dawn Hill is a former residential school student of the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Brantford, Ontario having attended from 1957 to 1961. Born on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, I am Mohawk, Turtle clan.
After moving across Canada as an office manager for a company from Brantford, I came back to Six Nations where I learned I could go back to school (at age 35), education paid for. I became an elementary school teacher and taught for 28 years. Currently, I volunteer as the Secretary/Co-Treasurer of the Mohawk Village Memorial Park, a not-for-profit, charity organization run mainly by residential school survivors. The Park is dedicated to the memory of all the children who attended the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School in Brantford over its 142 years. The Park is being constructed as a positive, peaceful place for all people to visit.
I am also a Board member of the Survivors’ Secretariat. This group is instrumental in developing the ground search protocols and looking for missing children and unmarked graves of children from the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School.
The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation has an advisory board, on which I sit. This Board, Na-mi-quai-ni-mak, allocates funds to Indigenous groups across Canada for commemoration activities.
Dawn Hill, Rick Hill, Nicholas Roland, Heather George, Tim Johnson