Six Nations of the Grand River

The Six Nations of the Grand River Territory is a league of nations comprised of the Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Mohawk, Oneida, and Tuscarora. The Tuscarora who are originally from North Carolina joined the confederacy in 1722.

The traditional account of how the Iroquois Confederacy was formed began with “the Peacemaker” who brought teachings of the peace, power and righteousness which is known as “The Great Law of Peace”.  “The Great Law of Peace” is the founding constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and is the underlying basis for our society.  Fifty Chiefs, Clanmothers and Faithkeepers were appointed as the “Caretakers of the Law” each with their respective jobs and duties to follow. It is in this way that the “The Great Law of Peace” is perpetuated and remains intact and alive today.

The Chiefs pass their title down to their successors and are chosen by the Clanmothers who are the head of each Clan (family). The Clans include three each from the land, water and  the sky – the Turtle, Eel, Beaver, Heron, Hawk, Snipe, Bear, Wolf and the Deer.

Haudenosaunee  - “People of the Longhouse” are a matrilineal society, which means ones Clan and Nation are passed down to a child from his or her mother. People from the same Clan are not allowed to marry each other, as a Clan constitutes a familial relationship.

About the Grand River Territory

The Grand River flows from its source south for approximately 300km through Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Waterloo, Kitchener, Brantford, Six Nations and Cayuga before emptying into the north shore of Lake Erie at Port Maitland. The Grand River is one of the cleanest in Ontario and achieved Canadian Heritage River status in 1994.

There are twelve Grand River Conservation Authority Parks along the river. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, dinner cruises, and watching the wide variety of wildlife can be enjoyed throughout the year.

The Six Nations of the Grand River Territory is located in one of the last remaining Carolinian Forests in Ontario which are characterized primarily by a predominance of deciduous or broad-leaf trees. It is estimated that 90 per cent of Canada's Carolinian forest has already been destroyed.


Six Nations Celebrities

There are many famous people who have come from the Six Nations of the Grand River. These notables include Jay Silverheels or better known as Tonto in the Lone Ranger, Academy nominated actor Graham Green – Dances with Wolves , Roberta Jamieson – Canada’s First Indigenous Female Lawyer and Ombudsman of Ontario, Santee Smith – trained with the National Ballet of Canada, Robbie Robertson – from the legendary rock group the Band, Stan Jonathan – played hockey for the NHL’s Boston Bruins, Gaylord Powless – one of Canada’s finest Lacrosse players, Tom Longboat – long distance Marathon runner, and Emily Pauline Johnson – renowned Mohawk Poetess.

Thomas Charles Longboat
July 4, 1886 - January 9, 1949

Early in his life, it became clear that Longboat had the ability to become a great runner. Longboat’s first important race took place in 1906 when he won the “Around the Bay Race,” an annual Marathon in Hamilton, Ontario. After taking his victory, it is said that Tom ran home after the race. When he won the 1907 Boston Marathon with a record time of two hours, twenty-five minute and four seconds, Tom Longboat became the world’s premiere marathon runner. By 1910 he was widely recognized as one of Canada’s leading athletes. In 1912, after turning professional, he set the record of one hour, eighteen minutes and ten seconds for fifteen miles-seven minutes faster than his old amateur record. During the first World War, Longboat served as a dispatch runner in France and raced professionally as often as possible. After the war, Longboat returned to Canada and settled in Toronto. He retired to the Six Nations Territory and died of pneumonia on January 9, 1949. Tom had become a legend in his own lifetime and so he shall remain. In 2010, the Ontario Legislature proclaimed every year on June 4th to be “Tom Longboat Day”.

E. Pauline Johnson
March 10, 1861 - March 7, 1913

Tekahionwake or E. Pauline Johnson was the daughter of a Mohawk Chief, George Johnson, and his English born wife Emily S. Howells. Pauline was born on March 10, 1861 on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.  Pauline received little formal education, yet she  had a natural aptitude for literature and began to write poetry at an early age.

At the turn of the century, Pauline Johnson was one of Canada’s most popular and successful entertainers and writers. At the age of 31 when society expected her to marry and begin a family, she began to tour the country instead. She gave popular recitals of her poetry, comedy routines, and plays from Halifax to Vancouver. She was also one of the few female writers at the time that could make an independent living from what she wrote and performed. Pauline Johnson was proud of her native heritage and wrote: “My aim, my joy, my pride is to sing the glories of my people.” Pauline Johnson died in Vancouver on March 7, 1913 and is one of the only people to be buried in the cities Stanley Park..


Featured Six Nations Tourism Video