SIX NATIONS — Shock, anger and grief spread throughout the community Saturday morning after a suspected arson destroyed one of Six Nations oldest buildings.
Police told TRT the St. John’s Anglican Church at Tuscarora Road and Fifth Line appeared to have been hit in an intentional attack to burn down the building at around 3:00 a.m. on June 12. Six Nations and Brant County firefighters were on the scene and brought the flames under control quickly.
The Ontario Fire Marshall was called into investigate, Six Nations Police later issuing a statement that the fire was an apparent arson. Senior members of the St. John’s church community told TRT the pattern of burned fuel spread around the outside of the building showed the fire was likely set intentionally to burn down the entire structure.
What is left of the building has not yet been assessed, nor has an estimated value of damage been made public. However members of the church told TRT the damage seems to be restricted to the entryway, steeple and external siding of the church. Smoke damages were being assessed.
The church building is one of Six Nations oldest historical buildings with roots to the very first years that Six Nations became a reserve on the south side of the Grand River.
The church, which opened initially on the north side of the Grand in 1813, was moved to its current location with the relocation of all Indigenous settlements of the Haudenosaunee along the Grand River Tract into what is now called the Six Nations Reserve #40 in the 1880s.
It is a parish that was funded from the New England Company — the first corporate missionary body that instituted Indian Schools in Upper Canada, which would later become the Indian Residential School system.
Despite the church’s establishment being connected to the New England Company — the humans of Six Nations throughout history relied on the church as part of the local community.
Members of the church community expressed their grief and frustration that someone would intentionally want to destroy such a significant, living part of Six Nations history.
Members of the church and other supporting churches within the Anglican community at Six Nations gathered on Sunday afternoon to pray and support one another. After news of the fire broke, discussion on social media spread into a wildfire of it’s own — with some members of the Six Nations community calling for all churches on the territory to be burned to the ground, while others lamented an attack on a sacred place where their ancestors have been buried since the Six Nations community began.