The Twelfth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2010
Berkeley Prize 2010

Tara Gaskin

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed the building. The reporter from the Brantford Expositor took hurried notes. And the chiefs of the Six Nations of the Grand River Confederacy Council walked solemnly out the doors. On this day, 7 October 1924, the Canadian Government determined the hereditary but unelected Confederacy Council was no longer to hold political power on the largest Native Canadian reserve in the country, and would be replaced by an elected Band Council, (Trevithick 1). By an order of the Federal Canadian Government, the RCMP was called in to evict the hereditary chiefs from the Council House, and inform the chiefs of the pending process of electing Band Council members. Some would argue the eviction, and subsequent order of the Police to move to an elected council was an attempt to regain control over the Six Nations Reserve. Today, 85 years later, both councils still exist, however, there is no effective leadership.

The Council House itself tells an interesting story congruent with the theme of British colonialism.  The elegant wooden structure, designed by Seneca chief John Hill, was constructed between 1863 and 1865, (Rogers 203).  It opened in January 1865 as a meeting place for the traditional Confederacy Council.  However, under mounting European pressure to conform to modern building esthetics, the Council House was covered with a buff brick veneer in the late nineteenth century, (203). Numerous renovations occurred over time, but what remains of the Council House stands in the village centre as a visible evidence of the community's struggles.

During the building's completion, its seizure and reclamation, the Old Confederacy Council House has held an important place in the minds of the Six Nations people. Yet the Council House is used today as a storage facility. There is potential for this building, set in the centre of the village of Ohsweken, to provide much more for the community.

I propose an essay that will explore the sociocultural significance of the structure and the stories it holds to the citizens of Six Nations Reserve no. 40. Further, I will discuss how the building can act as a bridge between the people of Six Nations and local municipalities through a satellite campus of Wilfred Laurier University, an opportunity for earning a post secondary education on the reserve.

Works Cited:

Scott, Trevithick. Conflicting outlooks: the background to the 1924 deposing of the Six Nations Hereditary Council. Calgary, University of Calgary, 1998.

Rogers, Edward S. Aboriginal Ontario: Historical Perspectives on the First Nations. Toronto, Dundurn Press Ltd., 1994.


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Ms.Tara Gaskin, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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