Mohawk women build tiny houses for those fleeing domestic violence

As they stand admiring their handy work, Tammy McGuire and Kylea Smart recall the incredible effort, sweat and tears that went into Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory’s latest buildings.

The women laugh as they remember struggling to move the tall knotted pine logs that act as supports for the buildings covered porches, repurposed from the land surrounding the tiny homes.

“Do you remember the day we had to drag these out of the field… and all the sweating that we had to do pushing them out because it was the middle of summer,” McGuire asks Smart.

“There was a lot of man-hours put into the logs to make them as nice as they are.”

McGuire and Smart participated in a government program aimed at training women in carpentry and other trades. With the help of three other Indigenous women—and no prior experience in home building—the group built the two tiny houses in just six months.

Now known as the Red Cedars Shelter’s tiny houses, the buildings will be used for women in need of transitional housing after leaving the safe house on the Mohawk Nation.

“We were all learning together as a group and being able to help and support each other,” Smart told CTV National News.

“To think these houses are down the road and are going to help so many women and children get back on their feet, back into their daily lifestyles, and learn how to become individuals is amazing.”

As women and mothers, McGuire and Smart are deeply aware of the ongoing need for safe housing for women in Indigenous communities. Despite the gruelling work it took to complete the structures, both say they were driven by the goal of providing a safe, comforting space for women in their community.

“To know that there’s comfort here for them. To know that they can come out of that patio door, light up a fire and sit down and roast some smores. Create some great memories for the children—that the future is going to be brighter… it’s nice to know,” McGuire said.

“It makes me so happy, but it also makes me sad [thinking about it].”

But the project has also served as a training ground for empowering new careers for the women.

After working diligently on the two outdoor patios, McGuire discovered a love for landscaping and learned skills that will open doors for other women in the community.

“It just proves anybody can build. The trade is not gender-specific, my mom was a carpenter and she built our house,” Chief R. Donald Maracle told CTV National News.“It’s good to see women entering the trades.” 

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