Star Wars mania gets the Kanyen’kéha treatment

Last week Christmas came early for the millions of Star Wars fans who have been waiting for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. At first, many criticized the beloved George Lucas franchise for being sold to Disney, skeptical to see if it would continue to live up to its legacy, but last week’s opening smashed the global box office record with $525 million in ticket sales, proving that Star Wars is back for yet another generation to adore.

Karahkwenhawi Zoe Hopkins might just be the biggest Star Wars fan in Six Nations.

“I love Star Wars so much that I made my own weird little version of it all in Mohawk, where I got to make fun costumes and play all my favourite characters,” she says of the two hilarious Star Wars shorts she made in Kanyen’kéha — ‪Star Wars Episode 4 and The Trash Compactor Scene. ‬

Although they were made over a year ago, her Star Wars in Mohawk videos have been gaining popularity once again as they’ve been making their way through social media in light of the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. ‬‬

Since they’ve been uploaded, the shorts have had thousands of views on YouTube. Her version of Star Wars Episode 4 played at Swede Fest, a film festival in Florida, shared on APTN National News, and almost made it onto the George Stroumboulopoulous show, whose staff had interviewed Karahkwenhawi because they had seen it and loved it. The trash compactor scene was the winner of a contest put on by TIFF, and the head of Star Wars at Lucasfilm had even seen it. Last week TIFF posted it again to their social media to coincide with the opening of The Force Awakens.

“It makes me so happy that people like it and laugh. And I’m happy that our language is being heard and appreciated” says Karahkwenhawi. “If our language had never been lost, we would have tons of shows and movies and videos on YouTube in the language. So, every time we can watch something and hear Kanyen’keha, that’s like a win for the light side.”

Like her Goldilocks tahnon Ohkwá:ri short, Karahkwenhawi made the Star Wars shorts for the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa Mohawk Adult Immersion Program.

She had been studying Kanyen’kéha for two years by the time she made Star Wars Episode 4 in Mohawk, which starred herself and Karonhyawake Jeff Doreen. She wrote it with help from Megan General, who had been studying the language for four years. A year later she made the Trash Compactor Scene, which featured two other Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa students – Artie Martin and Ronkwetiyohstha Joe Maracle, who graduated last year.

“I really like how Yoda speaks in a backward English that’s similar to the way Mohawk is spoken,” says Karonhyawake, who often references Star Wars when teaching Kanyen’kéha to grades 4 – 8, “As part of my teaching, I write the Mohawk word on the board and break it down into its smaller word parts with respective meanings. I have the kids interpret the word into ‘regular english’ and then into “Yoda’néha” (Yoda-language). The students like that. I like Yoda’s philosophy as well. He’s Yoda-nosaunee!”

Karahkwenhawi’s love for Star Wars runs so deep, she has achieved the utmost patience to see it.

“I’m waiting until Boxing Day to see it. I was wary about the new one since the prequels were not nearly as good as the originals. But I hear people love it.” says Karahkwenhawi.

“I’m savoring the moment, and even though I heard it’s good, I’m scared that my precious will be ruined!” Secretly, she wants to have the theatre all to herself.

Her Star Wars shorts can be found on the Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa YouTube page, or simply by searching ‘Star Wars in Mohawk’.

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