By Scott Smith with Paul Isaac
One might be given to think that Brant County, historical home of Tyendinaga (more commonly known as legendary Mohawk leader and Mason, Joseph Brant), as well as his provenances of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and the City of Brantford, would have produced an Indigenous District Deputy Grand Master or two in the last couple of hundred years.
But that would be wrong. Until now.
Right Worshipful Bro. Paul G. Isaac is the first native DDGM in Brant, and far as can be ascertained, in all of Ontario. He was elected to The Grand Lodge of Canada, Province of Ontario, in July 2019, and will conclude his position as DDGM Brant District in July 2020.
“I was always intrigued by Masons and their relationship with natives in the area, and that began at a young age,” says Paul. “I wanted to seek out the mysteries of becoming a Mason.”
Paul’s father, Cameron, was a member of AF&AM Lodge No. 132 in Niagara Falls, New York. He would attend lodge locally in Brant when his work schedule as a journeyman electrician would allow.
“I would often hear him talking to strangers on the patio about lodge. Little did I know these ‘strangers’ would become my brothers later in life. My Dad always wore a Masonic ring but I could get no more information from him.”
When Paul came of age and expressed an interest in Masonry, his dad contacted Wor. Bro. John Bradley, an active member of Hiram Lodge No. 135 in Hagersville. Located about 20 minutes south of Hamilton it is almost adjacent to the reserve communities of the Missassauagas of the New Credit First Nation and the Six Nations.
Paul joined Hiram Lodge and became a Master Mason in 1985; but, like many young Masons with a career and young family on the go, he found it hard to make time to attend lodge regularly.
“I paid my dues for years but didn’t begin to sit in the chairs until 2003. In 2010 I became Master of the Lodge for the first time.” He served again in 2017 and 2018.
One of the dreams Paul has for the district is the re-establishment of what was known as the Indian Degree team. During the 1970s and early 80s there were sufficient numbers of Indigenous members to form a travelling degree team. His father Cameron participated in the Indian Degree Team on occasion and Paul can recall him travelling to the eastern US to do degree work.
Bringing the degree team back to fruition will be a tall order, however. At present there are just not enough First Nations members in the district. The overall membership in general has been dwindling for some time now.
Most of the members of the fabled native assembly have since passed on to the great lodge above, and have not been replaced by younger applicants.
“I think it’s not publicized enough, that’s part of it,” says Paul. “We don’t advertise. We don’t put out flyers or billboards, so people just don’t know about us.”
That could always change and Paul is passionate about spreading the word.
“If we have family members or close friends who are Masons then maybe a spark could be rekindled for membership.” Paul is humbled by the fact that he is in a position to make this happen. “Other young native men in our communities could and should have the opportunity to be in my position. I was totally unaware that I was the first and I feel bad for those who don’t know what I know about Masonry – what they can do for the Order and what the Order can do for them.”
Paul says that while all Lodges are striving for increased membership and better attended monthly meetings, the fraternity is only as strong as those who are already in it are willing to make it: “So let’s make it great!”