Six Nations of the Grand River
Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario.
Community Gathering Circle
On Wednesday, January 19, 2022, individuals came together over Zoom to speak to the needs of Indigenous artists regarding creative spaces in the community of Six Nations. This Circle included Indigenous artists and community members who are and have been involved with Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC), activating the space in different ways. The Gathering was hosted by Janis Monture, Executive Director of Woodland Cultural Centre.
About the Woodland Cultural Centre
The Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC) is dedicated to preserving history, language, and culture of Six Nations of the Grand River, Wahta Mohawks, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. Based in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, WCC includes an interactive museum and gallery, an Indigenous library and language resource centre, several office spaces, as well as the former Mohawk Institute Residential School building on site. WCC’s current project is to restore and re-imagine the former Mohawk Institute as an Interpretive Centre. It will be a destination for visitors to receive information about the history of residential schools, and this project is funded through their Save the Evidence campaign.
The need for creative spaces
Janis framed the conversation around developing new space for WCC’s museum, art gallery, and offices as well as restoration work of the former Mohawk Institute Residential School. The landscape of sovereign Indigenous creative spaces in this area is sparse, and while supportive communities such as Tyendinaga and Wahta have worked with WCC to develop programming and offer space for language and cultural programs, there is a need for more Indigenous arts spaces. WCC is the only central art space on reserve in Six Nations.
Discussion focused around how WCC can grow to better serve the community, and what the design of a new space (or spaces) could be for WCC.
How Woodland Cultural Centre can grow
Increased access points for the community to engage with the WCC can increase its impact as an artistic and cultural hub within Six Nations. Limited access due to lack of public transit in Brantford and Six Nation to WCC is a current barrier. Having transit systems include WCC on routes can increase in-person experiences and impact for Indigenous communities.
Satellite locations through the community can also broaden WCC’s programming reach throughout Six Nations. Community partners would be key in activating satellite locations across the region, and the Gathering Circle explored programming ideas focused on storytelling of residential schools and utilizing natural resources for art-making.
The design of a new space
Museum building design concepts of placing artifacts in rooms behind glass, accompanied by text to describe the artifacts, is a Westernized model for museums. Westernized building designs may not align with the vision for a new Indigenous facility that would house artifacts. Tactile knowledge, allowing visitors to touch artifacts and learn about its origins in this way, is something that WCC encourages in their current space with artifacts that can be handled. Tactile knowledge-sharing is just one example that can support the many different learning processes in the Six Nations community, and this design choice should be considered for WCC’s new space for their museum.
Designs of Indigenous creative space that inspired the Gathering Circle’s discussions included: Chickasaw Nation Cultural Centre, The Cree Cultural Institute, Debajehmujig Storytellers’ Creation Centre, The Enowkin Centre, The Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute, and The Kwanlindun Cultural Centre.
A space can also be made more sustainable in its design in the long-term. The Circle noted design examples that supported long-term community engagement and sustainability of the space, such as installing micro-exhibits and having performing arts space in different community satellite locations, rather than a bricks-and-mortar space. Environmentally-sustainable alternative building materials, such as clay and straw, to design the space and the objects inside can also make a space more environmentally-sustainable in the long term.