6 things I learned about Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
Six Nations is nestled along the winding Grand River near Brantford, Ont. Of their 26,000 members, 13,000 live in the expansive community that sits among rolling hills in Canada's Carolinian forest.
I felt like I wandered into a postcard. You know the one, with the house on the hill, big trees lightly dusted with snow, long winding roads. It wouldn't have surprised me if Santa rolled by in a rez car blasting Robbie Robertson or Logan Staats.
As well as the former member of The Band and rising star Staats, many athletes, actors, creators, and political change makers are proud Six Nations members.
Some of them include actors Graham Greene and Jay Silverheels (better known as Tonto); Roberta Jamieson, Canada's first indigenous female lawyer; Stan Jonathan, former NHL player with the Boston Bruins (who was clearing his neighbour's driveway while we were visiting! How cool is that?); famed marathon runner Tom Longboat; and one of my favourite poets, Emily Pauline Johnson.
Before Lady Gaga, Madonna and even Cher there was Pauline Johnson, or Tekahionwake. She broke rules before there were even rules to break.
The Mohawk poetess and renowned performer was born and raised at Chiefswood, her family homestead. It is a national historic site now, and I was super excited to tour the Victorian-era house with another renowned Mohawk poet — Janet Rogers.
This is where Pauline wrote books like Flint and Feather, and as I sat at her writing desk where she created this work, I got super Indigi-nerd emotional.
4. The Three Sisters — corn, squash and beans are big here. Really big.
They have traditions, ceremonies, stories, recipes, heck even artwork based on the Three Sisters, which the people believe were gifted to them by the Great Spirit.
5. Seeing history in real life.
For their loyalty, they were granted a tract of land along the Grand River under the 1784 Haldimand Treaty. Iroquois is a French term — they call themselves the Haudenosaunee, or People of the Longhouse. Their clan system follows a matrilineal line; in other words the women are in charge. I like that!
6. Finally remembering all six of the Six Nations.
There are actually six separate nations that make up the people of Six Nations (or 6Nay as the hip locals call it). They are: Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Tuscarora and Seneca, which is harder to remember than you think. Go, ahead, close your eyes and recite them. There will be a quiz later.