Since 1984

1984 Carolinian Canada Sites
Six Nations Forest


From the air, most of southwestern Ontario looks like a quilted network of cities, towns, and cultivated fields, with scattered patches of forest. The largest patch -- visible even on a satelllite image shot hundreds of kilometres above the earth -- is the Six Nations Forest, the largest single block of Carolinian woodland in Canada.

The Six Nations consist of the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, and the Tuscarora -- nations unified under the Great Tree of Peace. With the highest population of any indigenous community in Canada, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory is more than 18,000-ha in size, and roughly 50% of the land is covered in forest. Oak and HIckory are abundant, mixed with Maple, Walnut, and other hardwoods. The extensive forest supports a large number of neotropical migrant birds, such as Cerulean Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat.

The Eco-Centre at Six Nations is involved in a number of environmental activities (as is the Forestry Department), and one project in particular ensures that the next generation will continue the Nations' strong tradition of forest stewardship. School children collect seeds and nuts from trees in the fall, then plant them in containers in the spring, nurturing the seedlings in school greenhouses until they are ready to be planted at restoration sites.

A 0.8-ha prairie has been restored at the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, on the grounds of Chiefswood National Historic Site, where the poet E. Pauline Johnson was born in 1861. Based on historical research, 30 species indigenous to the area were planted, making up the prairie's exuberant bloom. "The prairie and the Carolinian zone were Johnson's inspiration," explains Chiefswood Curator Paula Witlow. "It's what she woke up to every morning."

Witlow also notes that restoration projects such as this sometimes assist in forging non-traditional alliances: "The Six Nations volunteer fire department has helped with our prairie burns, and it's not often that museums and fire departments can partner together..."


"The children may not actually put their seedlings in the ground for a couple of years. This teaches them that it takes a long time to grow a tree," says Eco-Centre Manager Paul General, noting that long-term protection and this kind of educational lesson go hand in hand.


Sweet Grass Gardens

In the early 1990s, Ken and Linda Parker of Six Nations started the first Native-owned and operated native plant nursery in North America, Sweet Grass Gardens. "I just wanted to landscape my yard," says Ken Parker, "and there weren't many native plants available commercially. So I started growing them -- at first just 12 species, which were sold from pallets on our driveway -- and soon it evolved, and next thing you know..." Their nursery, now selling more than 350 species, is landscaped with various demonstration gardens: prairie/meadow, pond, a cactus bed, and formal border. "These plants are significant to First Nations culture -- for food, medicine, dyes, and ceremonial uses. So when we say a plant is 'native', we mean all aspects. We'rd doing it to create cultural awareness, too."

Sweet Grass Gardens is located at 470 Sour Spring/Second Line, Six Nations of the Grand River. For more information see


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