Contrary to popular belief, teepees were not the preferred housing for Indigenous people in Ontario prior to the arrival of Europeans. The Wigwam was a popular dwelling for some communities, but members of the massive Haudenosaunee People lived in community-focused Longhouses.
And just a short road trip from Toronto in the First Nations community of Six Nations sits an absolutely stunning recreation of a 17th-century Longhouse.
A visit here will open your eyes to the modern history of Indigenous people in Ontario.
Six Nations Ontario
There is absolutely no better place to experience Indigenous history in Ontario than the community of Six Nations. Six Nations is home to “the Haudenosaunee,” or “The People of the Longhouse.” This community of six Iroquois Nations, is the largest First Nations community in all of Canada.
Six Nations is made up of several villages including Beavers Corner, Longboat Corners, Medina Corners, Miller’s Corner, Ohsweken, St. Johns, Smith Corners, Smoothtown, Sour Spring, and Stoneridge. These are populated by members of all six Iroquois Nations including the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Seneca, Oneida, and Tuscarora Nations.
Longhouse Ganǫsa’ǫ: weh In Six Nations
The Six Nations Longhouse is a project of the OSSTC or the Ogwehoweh Skills and Trades Training Centre. It offers a tremendous opportunity for locals in the community to gain important skills while offering a light into the history of the local people.
The Longhouse was given the name ‘Ganǫsa’ǫ: weh.’ This translates to “The Real House” in English. This is a truly apt name for a type of dwelling that existed long before the arrival of European settlers.
Currently, the Six Nations Longhouse is open for self-guided tours. You can explore how families would come together to live in these massive, multi-storey tall wood and bark buildings. Along the way, you can examine the displays of both archaeological finds and modern-day First Nations artwork and tools.
The OSTTC Longhouse Ganǫsa’ǫ: weh is gorgeous. Each family would be entitled to one section of the Longhouse and fire-keepers would tend to the three fires to keep them lit at all times. But smoke was not a problem, as the smoke would seep out through small holes in the roof of the Longhouse.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the traditional lifestyle of the Iroquois people during the 17th century, this is the place to do it.
Kayanase Grounds And Greenhouse
The OSTTC Longhouse Ganǫsa’ǫ: weh might be the focal point of the massive OSTTC property, there are plenty of other things to explore while you’re there.
Wander the walking trails where the OSTTC is re-introducing native Carolinian plants in order to naturally-recultivate the land. The plants are cultivated in the large greenhouse. Local plants are also for sale for natural gardens or eco-projects.
I made sure to grab a few of the wild strawberry plants, and I can tell you that the tiny berries are more packed with flavour than any berry I’ve ever tasted.
More Six Nations Ontario Attractions
While you’re in Six Nations to visit the Longhouse, there are some amazing things nearby that are worth checking out.
Head over to Chiefswood Park to enjoy a picnic on the shores of the Grand River. Spend a night in one of the stunning glamping cabins, or visit the childhood home of renowned poetess E. Pauline Johnson. It’s also a fantastic spot to experience the fall colours. You can even launch a boat or stand up paddleboard for a tour of the Grand River.
Grab lunch at the First Nations-run Burger Barn on 4th Line. No word of a lie, these burgers are some of the best you’ll find anywhere in Ontario. And once your belly is full, make your way to nearby Brantford, Ontario to take in the magnificent ‘Her Majesty’s Chapel of the Mohawks.’ This is the oldest church in Ontario and the 8 stunning stained glass window talks about the history of the Six Nations community. If you’re looking for great things to do in Six Nations, you can check out more here.