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Grand River - Home and Native Land

Homestead of the Six Nations

More on the Grand River:
Grand River:
Ontario’s historic heartland

Bloom Town:
The flowering of an old-style Ontario town

The Grand’s Canyon:
Tourism powers an old mill town

Grinding Along the Grand:
Stone mills lined the riverbanks

High-Rise Herons:
Big swamp birds thrive in a wetland haven

Home and Native Land:
Homestead of the Six Nations

Old Order:
Mennonites set their own pace of change

Plaster of Paris:
A town arises from gypsum and cobblestones

Raising Rainbows:
Rehabilitating a tired industrial river

Sausages to Software:
The Industrial Evolution

Grand Stand:
Survival of a river valley forest

After it lost the war with its rebellious Thirteen Colonies, Great Britain rewarded the Iroquois First Nations, who had sided with the British, a tract of land about seven kilometres wide on either side of the Grand River.

The Iroquois First Nations, under Chief Thayendenaga (Joseph Brant), had fought alongside the British because they were well aware that the revolutionaries intended to expand into their lands. Britain promised the Iroquois it would recognize their ownership and prevent westward settlement.

Over the years most of the land grant was sold to speculators who resold it to non-Native settlers. All that remains of the original tract of land is about 18,000 hectares downstream of Brantford. The challenge facing the Reserve residents is to survive and thrive on a limited land area. Farming is still important but no new land is being cleared for it.

The Six Nations population now numbers about 10,000 descendants of the members of the old Iroquois Confederacy.

The Cayuga and Mohawk languages are taught in the Reserve's elementary schools. Lacrosse, Canada's official national game, is an Iroquois sport that is popular among young people. Traditional skills of hunting, fishing and living off the land are still being passed from generation to generation.

Six Nations Wildlife Management has assumed a role in caring for the Grand River's more sluggish, lower reaches. Located in the so-called economic Golden Triangle of southern Ontario, the Reserve is vulnerable to toxic pollution from industry in upstream cities such as Kitchener and Waterloo. Agricultural pollutants include cattle feces, urine, fertilizers, and pesticides.

The Six Nations recently signed an agreement with neighbouring municipalities that would notify all of them of any development plans for the lower watershed of the Grand. Any community could then express its concerns and influence the development plans.

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