MIRI Researchers

Dr. Allan Downey

Associate Professor
Department of History


Title: Haudenosaunee Ironworkers: Indigenous Nationhood, Families, and History on the High Steel

Funding: SSHRC Insight Development Grant, Fulbright Fellowship at Columbia University, SSHRC/ McGill Social Sciences and Humanities Emerging Scholar Accelerator Award

On May 10th, 2013, the crowning spire of the One World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York was set in place marking the completion of the first of six towers planned as replacements for those destroyed on September 11th, 2001. Atop that tower stood the latest generation of Haudenosaunee ironworkers to follow in the footsteps of Indigenous families who, for the last 150 years, have helped create some of North America’s most iconic landmarks.

Beginning in the 1880’s, the industry quickly became a principal source of employment for Haudenosaunee men who traveled to jobs throughout Canada and the northeastern United States. In New York City specifically, ironworking ensured a steady stream of stable employment that encouraged families to relocate to the city. By the 1920’s Haudenosaunee families from Ahkwesáhsne and Kahnawà:ke began relocating to Brooklyn where they opened a string of boarding houses and established the new community of “Little Caughnawaga.” Significantly, in the 1920’s and onward, Haudenosaunee women played an integral role in the formation of this community as they acted as critical intermediaries operating boarding houses, working in factories, assisting transient Indigenous workers from across North America, and extending the web of Haudenosaunee nationhood in these urban spaces.

Employing historical methodologies inspired by the field of Indigenous Studies, this project intends to demonstrate the elaborate intersection in which ironworking served in redefining and articulating Haudenosaunee identity, nationhood, and self-determination in the twentieth century.

In the News: Eastern Door (2017): Rotinonhsionni History of Raising Steel

Book: The Creator’s Game: Lacrosse, Identity, and Indigenous Nationhood (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018).

Lacrosse has been a central element of Indigenous cultures for centuries, but once non-Indigenous players entered the sport, it became a site of appropriation – then reclamation – of Indigenous identities. The Creator’s Game focuses on the history of lacrosse in Indigenous communities from the 1860’s to the 1990’s, exploring Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations and Indigenous identity formation. While the game was being appropriated in the process of constructing a new identity for the nation-state of Canada, it was also being used by Indigenous peoples to resist residential school experiences, initiate pan-Indigenous political mobilization, and articulate Indigenous sovereignty. This engaging and innovative book provides a unique view of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood in the face of settler-colonialism.

Listen: CBC Radio (2018): Reclaiming the Indigenous Roots of Lacrosse


  • Fulbright Fellowship Columbia University Sept-Dec 2018 • Awarded a 2018-2019 Fulbright Fellowship at Columbia University. The Fulbright Fellowship is considered to be one the most recognized and prestigious fellowships in the world.
  • 2018 Canadian Studies Canadian Studies Network October 2018 Book Prize • The Creator’s Game was awarded the 2018 Canadian Studies Network Book Prize.
  • 2017 Principal’s Prize McGill University May 2017 for Outstanding Emerging Researcher • Awarded the 2017 Principal’s Prize for Outstanding Emerging Researcher at McGill University. The university-wide prize is awarded to emerging scholars at McGill University that have distinguished themselves through globally renowned research.
  • 2017 CHA Canadian Aboriginal Canadian Historical Association May 2017 History Article Prize • Awarded the Canadian Historical Association’s 2017 Canadian Aboriginal History Article Prize for the article “Playing the Creator’s Game on God’s Day.” The bi-annual award is presented to the author(s) of the best scholarly work in Canadian Indigenous history.
  • The John Bullen Prize Canadian Historical Association June 2015 Honorable Mention • Recipient of the Honorable Mention for the Canadian Historical Association’s 2015 John Bullen Prize. The John Bullen Prize is awarded to the outstanding PhD dissertation written for a doctoral degree on a historical topic at a Canadian university.


  • 30 in 30 Award Wilfrid Laurier University Sept 2017 • Awarded a 30 in 30 Award by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Graduate Student Association. The award recognizes 30 former alumni who best exemplify a life of leadership and purpose in advocacy, community building, personal wellness, professional development, research, and/or volunteerism.



  • The Creator’s Game UBC Press Feb 2018 • Downey, Allan. The Creator’s Game: Lacrosse, Identity, and Indigenous Nationhood. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2018. *Received the 2018 Canadian Studies Network Book Prize Refereed

Articles and Chapters:

< Visit Allan’s Website >

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