Geronimo’s Christmas at Mohawk Residential School

Geronimo’s Christmas at Mohawk Residential School
Geronimo Henry attended Mohawk Institute Residential School between 1942 and 1953. He is shown above in front of the steps to that building after they were filled with toys, clothes, and more to recognize survivors following the discovery of graves at similar institutes across Canada. Geronimo is nearing his $50,000 goal to build a permanent memorial at the school, which will go hand-in-hand with other work being done at the site.

By Geronimo Henry, #48

Mohawk Residential School Survivor

Remembering Christmas at “The Mush Hole” 1942-1953

It was three days before Christmas                                                             we had to dress in our Sunday best                                                          and march downtown to                                                                             the Kirby hotel with all of the rest

We arose in the morning                                                                           when we heard such a clatter                                                                         It was the boys’ master saying there’s chores to be done,                      let’s hear no chatter

We were paraded through                                                                 Brantford for our Christmas meal                                                    Watched and made fun of by people so unreal

What a way to treat children,                                                                     we didn’t know it was cruel                                                                        The dirty little Indians                                                                               from the Mohawk Residential School

On Christmas Eve there was no great joy                                                 We had a Santa who brought us some little toy                                       We would get dressed again in our Sunday clothes

We’d help the little ones get ready around seven or so                       We’d march down to the mess-hall and there sit in rows                  Waiting, for Santa with ribbons and bows

The boys on one side, and the girls on the other                                   Mr. Zimmerman would lead carols one after another

Then down came Santa between the girls and boys                              Up to the front to hand out boxes of toys                                           When our number was called for, we had no names                           We’d collect a gift, candy, and orange, all the same

One Christmas I got a book beyond my years                                            I was so disappointed I broke down in tears                                    When the boys’ master asked, Hey why are you crying?                          I was so sad and that was no lying

He then brought me a toy tank, and everyone wanted to play             It was the best gift, and it made my day                                                    It was a great treasure for years to come                                                      I cherished that tank from when I was young.

But it was taken away when I out-grew the toy                                     Only to be smashed and broken by a much younger boy

Then Christmas came and it was a long lonesome day                          Get up for chores and get them out of the way                                        No one was allowed to go home for the holiday season                   Little ones crying and they had good reason

Wondering what Mom and Dad were doing at home                           Are they having a dinner while I’m left to roam                                      So we had to make our own fun of icing the hills                                  And ride down on cardboard ending in spills

So don’t criticize, or condemn me for the things that I say                Cause I’m just remembering a long ago Christmas day.