John Henhawk, an Ironworker from Six Nations of the Grand River, didn’t realize his calling until later in life, but that didn’t stop him from entering the trade and following in his father’s footsteps. “My father was one of the first ironworkers from the reserve to start down here. He worked back in the hot rivet days, before the bullets came in … It was hard work, but they were hard men,” he says.
Though John’s father was long retired when he entered the trade, John hopes to one day work on some of the same structures, like the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. “It would be 40 years later,” he reflects, adding that he would have liked to work with his father side-by-side.
The biggest job that John has been involved with so far is the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. As a tradesman he’s proud to look at the completed building, knowing it’s forever a part of him. “When you see the finished product … you have a sense of pride. If you have children you can take them there and say ‘I helped build that,’ and it makes you feel good,” he remarks.
John likes the physical aspect of ironwork and the travel. “It’s not a normal nine-to-five job in a factory where you stay in one spot for 30 years and then retire. In our line of work you can see North America if you want,” he says.
John is proud of the reputation his Mohawk ancestors have built. He’s also proud of being an Ironworker. “It’s doing a job that almost no one else can do, and that really means a lot to Aboriginal people.”