Settler Colonialism, Residential Schools, and Architectural History // Active History

Throughout my undergraduate education in architecture, I was unaware that the beautiful river outside our light-filled studios wound its way through stolen lands. From its headwaters roughly forty kilometres south of Georgian Bay, the Grand River flows past the University of Waterloo’s architecture school in Cambridge, Ontario, skirting the edge of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory before eventually reaching Lake Erie. In 1784, land abutting the river’s entire length, “six miles deep from each side,” was set aside for the Six Nations through the Haldimand Treaty. By 1851, a succession of sales, leases, and illegal occupations by waves of incoming settlers had reduced this territory to five per cent of its original 950,000 acres – roughly its size today.

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Image: Gardiner Thornton Gathé & Associates, St. Mary’s Residential School, Mission, BC, 1965 (“Department of Public Works Design Awards for Architecture,” Journal RAIC/L’IRAC 42, no. 9 (September 1965): 69).