Bright lights big city

Editorial by Jonathan Garlow

It was back in the early 90s when the Six Nations community started to realize they had their own economy. Businesses had been popping up steadily throughout the 70s and 80s but by 1993 there was a moment of self-awareness when our nation started to think about how much money we were giving to our neighbours.

Oka had happened, Nirvana just released their final album and Six Nations launched a new initiative called “Shop Local/Shop Native”.

If you were in Six Nations in the 90s you should remember. Stickers sporting that tagline were on the doors of every local business and local publications were encouraging us to support each other. The design was created by local artist Arnold Jacobs and the project was spearheaded by Rachel Martin of Two Rivers Community Development. Generations later, the legacy of Shop Local/Shop Native lives on.

In 2009, Six Nations Economic Development completed an extensive survey measuring the amount of dollars Six Nations spends off-reserve. The results were staggering. They found that more than $75 million was spent in surrounding communities that year.

This is why in 2006 Caledonia felt the power of a Six Nations embargo during the Douglas Creek Estates/Kanonhstaton crisis. At that time more than 400 residents and businesses filed a lawsuit and eventually received $20 million from the provincial government for financial compensation over the dispute. They tried to say it was because the image of the town was tarnished but in reality it was because our people stopped shopping there. Thankfully we are back.

The thing is, many people from Six Nations don’t even shop in Caledonia — so they only felt a fraction of the financial damages of losing Six Nations support.

You see, the Six Nations are united in principle but are geographically divided by the 4th line. According to local historians, those such others north of the 4th parallel are deemed “down belowers” and those south of this invisible border have been called “upper enders”.

Down Below is most noted for retaining old growth forests and longhouses while the Upper End has more farmers’ fields and Mohawks but these are just petty generalizations.

At any rate, Upper Enders are most accustomed to shopping in Brantford and as a life-long Upper Ender from Mohawk Road and 2nd Line, my father Andy and I have often argued the quickest way to get there.

Let’s look at the facts. From the Two Row Times offices to the corner of Erie Ave. and Birkett Lane is 11.5 km if you take the second line to Cockshutt road route. It’s only 10 km if you take Newport Road and go under Pee Bridge, but here’s the thing: the extra stop signs slow you down and theoretically burns more fuel.

The debate will continue to rage on, but this argument assumes you are travelling to the central Brantford area. What about West Brantford? You have to take the now famous Tutela Heights road. If you want to go to Cainsville or North Brant then Highway 18 to 54 is your best bet.

The greatest advancement in Brantford-Six Nations relations could be a bridge built over the Grand River at the end of Mohawk road. This could connect Six Nations with Salt Springs Church Road and revolutionize the commute to Brantford for Upper Enders and such others. There have been whispers from Brant County that this may actually happen within our lifetime.

And that is exactly what our communities need to be doing. Building new bridges to each other for new business opportunities. Six Nations has lots to offer. Brantford and Caledonia needs to learn the value of shopping local and shopping native.

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