The Chalet du Square building in Montreal’s Griffintown neighborhood was designed by architect David Jerome Spence in 1932 as a bath house for surrounding residents. Like many other Art Deco buildings, the construction features appropriated Indigenous design work. The architect did not attribute the design work to a specific Indigenous Nation or individual, representing a highly problematic trend in the history of architecture. At the same time that the settler state was attempting to systematically eliminate Indigenous peoples through sanctioned programs such as residential schools, Indigenous cultural production was being stolen and used to define modernism in North America. Architects were interested in Indigenous designs for their use of complex geometries, forms found in nature, and as part of an attempt to create a distinctly North-American modernist style. It is important to remember that the designs on the Chalet du Square are highly stylized and homogenous. They are not representative of actual Indigenous work. The reliefs above the door appear to be based on a hawk design while the main bas-relief is likely a hybrid of a headdress design and the non-Indigenous Art Deco ‘sunburst’ motif. Buildings such as this and the documentation surrounding them present a stereotype, and perpetuate the myth of Indigenous populations as static entities. As Saami architect/artist Joar Nango has pointed out, Indigenous design styles are often represented via symbolic typologies which are immediately recognizable to the settler, but Saami design work for example, can more accurately be described as a “way of of thinking and relating to space” that is multifarious and cannot be easily formalized. Designs might be based on the Indigenous relationship to land as an animate entity, or respond to the specific “ecological, spiritual, and historical criteria provided by the site itself.”
It should also be realized that the Chalet du Square tells us nothing of the Kanien’kehá:ka (also known as the Mohawk people) whose land the building was constructed on. Through a series of genocidal measures and false dealings, European colonizers displaced the Kanien’kehá:ka from their ancestral lands on the island of Montreal, forcing the remaining population into the Kanesatake and the Kahnawake reservations which exist today. Despite over four hundred years of colonization and oppression, the Kanien’kehá:ka culture remains strong and vibrant. Further information on this land can be found at http://www.manataka.org/page765.html and through Alanis Obomsawin’s renowned NFB production “Kanasatake: 270 Years of Resistance”
Examples of Appropriation (by some of North America’s most well-known modernist architects)
Art Deco, and North American modernism as a whole, is highly indebted to Indigenous design work. One of the most significant survey books on American Art Deco begins with a listing of how Art Deco architects appropriated Indigenous designs, but does not discuss how highly problematic this actually is. The following are a few examples of the hundreds of important modernist buildings which heavily relied upon Indigenous designs or stereotypical images of Indigenous peoples. Click on the images for more information about each structure:
By Rebecca Lemire
 More information on the ongoing effects of the residential school system on the lives of Indigenous peoples can be found through the Truth and Reconciliation Final Report at: http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/index.php?p=890 The government of Canada released an official apology for the residential school system in 2008 which can be found at https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100015644/1100100015649.
 This is also discussed in relation to the Sami people by Joar Nango in “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture” in Northern Experiments: The Barents Urban Survey (Oslo: 0047, 2009) Web version: http://www.northernexperiments.net/index.php?/saami-building/.
 Joar Nango. Interview. Space + Place. “Architecture of Stories” Calgary, AB. Nov. 6, 2012. and also see Joar Nango “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture”.
 Joar Nango. “The Saami Building Tradition: A Complex Picture”, 191.