A 17th-century replica longhouse constructed on Six Nations as part of an initiative promoting ecotourism and Haudenosaunee culture was damaged extensively in a fire on Friday.
"It's with deep sadness to announce that this afternoon the Ogwehoweh Skill and Trades Training Centre Longhouse Ganǫsa'ǫ:weh (OSTTC) was engulfed in flames," said a news release posted to the longhouse's Instagram account.
According to the post, fire crews were able to put out the fire shortly after arriving, but the damage to the longhouse was already extensive.
There were no injuries during the fire and no staff or visitors were inside at the time, the notice says.
"I want to thank the community for their outpouring of support at this difficult time," said Erin Monture, CEO of Business Opportunities for Grand River Employment and Training Inc., which oversees the OSTTC longhouse.
"We are thankful that nobody was harmed," she said, adding she was grateful to local police, fire and paramedic services for their "timely response."
"Although this is an unfortunate situation, we are already committed to continuing the important work of keeping our culture and traditions alive," she added.
The longhouse was used for education and teaching purposes, for the people of Six Nations and visitors from all over. It opened in 2018.
It aimed to promote "a sustainable ecotourism industry," employment for community members and to provide a "comprehensive and appropriate overview of Haudenosaunee culture and history from the beginning to contemporary times."
The building offered tours and activities such as fishing, archery, braiding craft, leather work, and more.
In a separate release from the elected council, Six Nations elected Chief Mark Hill said he was devastated to hear about the fire and visited the site afterwards.
"This was a key part of our community's efforts to preserve our traditions and teachings for coming generations," he said.
"Our community knows how to rebuild, and it is important everyone knows how much we value our history and our common culture."
The council said Six Nations Fire and Emergency Services (SNFES) were called to a structure fire at the site, on Highway 54 near Chiefswood Road, on Friday afternoon.
"SNFES has advised that due to the extent of the damage, it will be difficult to determine the cause of the fire at this time. Grand River Employment and Training Inc. will continue to work with SNFES and Six Nations Police as the investigation continues," council said.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who was in the area Friday to announce funding for local projects under the Building Safer Communities Fund, said he was saddened by the news and his thoughts are "with the community at this difficult moment."
According to the OSTTC Longhouse's website, local tradesmen of Six Nations made the building based on historical records.