Six Nations Condemns Desecration of Churches and Memorials

Recent acts of vandalism and arson have targeted Indigenous communities across the country, including Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Dozens of Indigenous-serving churches have been set on fire or vandalized. Even worse, reports have indicated that such acts of violence may have been perpetrated by non-members coming onto our territory with the intent to damage or destroy.

Other shocking acts of vandalism against our Six Nations community have been perpetrated in recent days as well. This past weekend, a community memorial outside the former Mohawk Institute honouring the children who were taken there was vandalized. The Every Child Matters orange display outside the Council buildings in Ohsweken has also been damaged. These acts are a direct disrespect to the memory of our children and reopen the wounds of our Survivors.

Six Nations of the Grand River is calling upon governmental and law enforcement authorities to take all steps necessary to defend and protect our communities, including our churches, our memorials, and all former Residential School properties. Desecration must not be tolerated.

We also note with sadness that some have downplayed the destruction of churches as mere buildings. These buildings exist for the sake of people, our people. Destroying them hurts us. It also threatens people’s lives, including an entire family in one case. In these churches, members worship, pray, and hold significant family events like baptisms, weddings, and funerals. These are cherished places; they belong to us. Some, like HM Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, are of great historical importance.

Our communities bear the wounds of the past, with the Residential School system’s theft of our children being one of the worst. Dioceses and religious orders should not have collaborated with the government in establishing such a system, and we expect all relevant records to be released by any diocese, church, or governmental institution. Many Catholics and Anglicans have expressed their friendship and support in recent weeks, even engaging in acts of penance and reparation as a spiritual form of solidarity and redress. We thank them for their kindness.

The federal government, which took our children in the first place, now has the opportunity to undertake its own form of reparation in acting to protect our communities. We are calling for proactively expedited assistance under the Security Infrastructure Program so as to guarantee the protection of churches, memorials, and Residential School sites. We also call on local authorities and police forces to take all steps necessary to put an end to arson and vandalism. We cannot feel safe with the burning of our churches or with vandals destroying our memorials.

Everyone has a role in pursuing reconciliation, and right now that means protecting the safety of our communities and securing our sacred lands, memorials, and churches.