Six Nations Elected Council, under pressure from a local group, voted Feb., 9th to removed famous lacrosse player Gaylord Powless’s name from the Six Nations arena leaving the building name the Six Nations Sports and Cultural Memorial Arena on the building. The group said the community did not vote for a name change. Both names have been on the building since a previous council decided to honour the famous lacrosse player. (Photo by Jim C. Powless)
By Victoria Gray
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND RIVER-After three years of fighting and compromises a group of Six Nations community members finally found themselves successful in having Gaylord Powless’ name taken off of the arena in Ohsweken.
Six Nations Elected Council passed a motion it said to restore the arena to its former, and current name, the Six Nations Sports and Cultural Memorial Arena, (SNSCMA) at its general council meeting on Feb. 8 after a delegation pleaded for the change for a third time since 2019 saying it shouldn’t be about an individual.
Councillor Audrey Powless-Bomberry, the late Gaylord Powless’s sister, declared a conflict and left the virtual meeting in an emotional state, but remaining councillors went on to vote unanimously to remove Gaylord’s name from the arena while discussing a possible hall of fame in the lobby or a dressing room door and said it would look to other ways to honour Gaylord Powless.
Mike Montour Sr., says he’s been fighting for three years to have the name changed back after being known for 21 years as the Gaylord Powless Arena or GPA. He said the late Vera Styres, who died on January 24, gave a list of 12 reasons they felt the arena’s title should revert to its former name.
“We’ve not the villains,” he said. “We’re the victims. We’re the ones that lost the name.” Those 12 reasons included a 1970 referendum, in which the community chose the name. He claimed some councillors who voted for the name change in 2001 had conflicts of interest and that many other people contributed to the planning, building and fundraising for the arena, that also included the Powless family.
On August 4, 2021 the Human Services Committee passed a motion to put the name Sports and Cultural Memorial Arena back on the building and to have the arena share the name, but that wasn’t satisfactory to people like Welby Johnson.
“If the original committee members knew then that the name would be changed, they wouldn’t have spent one more day on the council,” he said. “We wanted to build it for the community, not one individual.”
SNEC dealt with the issue in 2019 when both members of the Powless family and the community members came to council and it resulted in SNEC deciding to leave Gaylord Powless’ name on the arena and name the entire sports complex the Six Nations Cultural and Memorial Sports Centre (SNCMC) The SNCMC continued to appear on the arena above the Gaylord Powless Arena name.
Councillor Melba Thomas said both names should remain.”I believe that both names should be left on the arena but continue calling the arena the Six Nations Cultural and Sports Memorial Centre. That’s my views on this. I think it’s been disrespectful. We made mistakes, maybe making a decision so quickly and I hope we don’t make another mistake tonight because I do believe there’s room for everyone, including Gaylord Powless and the name that so many of our people were involved in.”
Councillor Hazel Johnson said the request didn’t sit well with her.”I don’t like the part where it’s almost like you have to declassify Gaylord’s Powless because he was a good lacrosse player. I find that hard to deal with.
Elected Chief Mark Hill was surprised the issue was back on council’s table. “We can’t continue to go back and forth on this item and we can’t continue to go back and even look to… I just don’t feel like it’s an item to go back and forth, on Gaylord’s name as well. There’s just so many pieces to this situation and I just really want to move forward in the best way possible.
Keeping both names on the arena did not appease the group who claimed the original name change should not have happened claiming the Six Nations Sports and Cultural Memorial Centre name for the arena was chosen through a referendum.
The arena was built in 1972 and named the Six Nations Sports and Cultural Memorial Centre and it was changed in 2001, just days before Gaylord Powless death to acknowledge his lacrosse career.
The sports complex in Ohsweken has a more than 600 seat arena, the Six Nations Community Hall, Dajoh Youth and Elders Centre, lacrosse field, running track, a splash pad, an outdoor rink, skateboard park, the John Peters ball diamond, horse track, and a concession stand along with statues to noted Six Nations athletes like famous runner Tom Longboat. It also includes administration space.