OHSWEKEN – Stories of experiences at the Red Barn — an arts and crafts camp held during the summer for youth in Six Nations to enjoy — have been told for generations.
This year, the day to pick up hand-made crafts from the fabled Red Barn landed on Friday, July 25, after youth spent up to two weeks learning how to create traditional crafts from moccasins to beaded barrettes at the Sour Springs (Upper Cayuga) Longhouse.
“Next year will be our 50th,” said Red Barn Co-ordinator Marion Martin, as she explained that there were 119 youth signed up for the Red Barn this year. “This is one of the slower years, [it’s been slow] for the passed four. This year the most we had at one day was 84, usually we’re up into a hundred so that’s quite a bit down,” she said.
But, regardless of the numbers, Martin still enjoys being able to help offer the awesome two weeks of crafting to youth within the community.
“I’m always excited that I get to see another season through. I’ve been with the Red Barn since ’49, so I’d say 40 years at least. And I’ve been co-ordinator for the last 15,” she said.
“We had a lot of student helpers, which was excellent, they helped out all of the teachers. It was another really good year,” she said. “We had new instructors; 18 instructors and we had 22 different crafts that they taught. So, one teacher taught three crafts in her time, and another did two.”
“Art did his drums and rattles again, he keeps saying [that this is his] ‘last year,’” she said with a laugh.
Art Johnson has been teaching youth how to make horn rattles and water drums for at least 15 years, with each of his students putting in a full week at the Red Barn to create either one.
“It’s getting hotter and I’m getting lazier,” joked Johnson. “Can’t get around the way I used to; because before it was nothing to have 10 kids here and I’d end up having to pretty-well finish their rattles, handles and everything. But, now I can’t do it anymore.”
Not to worry; however, Johnson explained that he has been teaching an apprentice to be able to take over in the coming years.
“I’ve been teaching Ed’ a couple of things, and he’s getting pretty good. He’s a good carver,” he said.
But, the Red Barn didn’t get it’s name from the Sour Springs Longhouse. Johnson explained that the location of the Red Barn moved from the old silver barn across the road, to a spot along the Grand River around the time he began teaching.
“It was different, everything was out in the open, like we didn’t have tents. But I used to have a good spot over there, right under the poplar trees. There used to be a circle of poplar trees and I used to sit in there and set up,” he said.
“It was right where Barbie built her house, Marions’ girl,” he said. “They tore the old barn down. But, she bought that land and we didn’t know where we’d go, so we asked about coming here. It was nice here,” he said.
But, much like the red barn on Sixth Line, the old Sour Springs Longhouse had recently been disassembled.
“That’s where I used to have my set up, right along the longhouse there,” he said, motioning to the spot the Longhouse stood. “Things change. We used to use the old one if it started raining too.”
But, even though “things change,” the Red Barn will happily reach it’s fiftieth anniversary next year where it is hoped to continue even further for future generations to enjoy.