SIX NATIONS – If you’ve driven towards Chiefswood road on Highway 54, you might have noticed a building being built at the edge of the Kayanase plot.
This building is a replica of the traditional longhouses our Haudenosaunee ancestors built to live and thrive in. The reason for building this longhouse in particular, is one that is tied into educating outsiders while also preserving and maintaining Haudenosaunee history.
Ecotourism Co-ordinator Kahentakeron Deer explained that although there are longhouses elsewhere, this one will be the focal point of a larger project with Grant River Employment And Training (GREAT).
“They wanted to bring more of a cultural, historic attraction to Six Nations and increase eco-tourism and cultural-tourism,” said Deer. “There aren’t really any other longhouses around here that are operated by the actual first nation.”
Deer explained that the nearest longhouse replicas are at the Kanata Village, which hasn’t been open for use in quite some time, as well as the replica village in Crawford Lake. However, this one will be in the Six Nations community, and has been built by carpenters and ironworkers from Six Nations and will be “inclusive of everyone”.
“It is sort of a tourism destination, but we’re trying to make it as accessible to the community as it can be,” he said.
In regards to the construction of the building, Deer explained that they did have to use some modern methods to ensure security for visitors.
“It’s mostly made from cedar poles, and the bark is real hardwood bark,” he said. “They are using steel bolts and there is a layer of plywood between the layers of bark. So, it’s just to add more strength to the structure.”
The structure will need the added strength, as it is hoped to host many programs in the future.
A longhouse itself was traditionally made using beams of spring-cut wood and elm bark, while each piece was connected together strategically with wooden pegs, rope and crossing poles to help distribute weight evenly. It has also been speculated that the longhouse walls would be insulated and reinforced with clay, not just bark.
The circumference of these bark-covered buildings were usually surrounded by a palisade that would begin with a maze to confuse intruders. The palisade itself would then be surrounded by a cornfield to alert the people of approaching animals and intruders.
Operations Manager Carole Smith commended the men that worked on the longhouse, as the construction began last October and went through the winter.
“The amount of detail that they’ve put into it, I have to really commend the builders,” said Smith. “’Cause they’ve put so much of themselves into it. If they weren’t sure about something, they went out and talked to people and they did their own research because they wanted it to be as authentic as possible.”
The longhouse will include bunks for sleeping and storage spaces just as the authentic longhouses had. Smith explained that the types of programs they hope to offer will coincide with the era of the longhouses, such as basket making and moccasin making.
“We’re going to focus on more traditional, interactive and interpretive programming,” she said. “Just to give [visitors] a hands-on sense of what you would have experienced in that time period.”
As soon as construction of the longhouse finalizes by the end of this summer, Kayanase is planning to create a healing garden that will be shaped and look like a turtle from above to add to the destination and variation of programming. They also hope to build a learning pavilion, and the entirety of the project will be geared “to promote traditional ecological knowledge.”
Smith would also like to encourage artisans that can create replications of artifacts and wares to contact Kayanase at email@example.com or 519-770-0013.