TYENDINAGA — Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na has recently published 30 children’s story and colouring books in the Kanyenke’háka (Mohawk) language and is giving away 6,000 copies (200 copies per book) of these original and updated works in Toronto, Brantford, Buffalo, Montréal, Tyendinaga, Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Kanehsatake, Wahta, Ohsweken, Kanatsiohareke, and Ganienkeh.
“We are very excited to introduce these books to our community, in keeping with our belief that our world is made better by Kanyen’kehà:ka culture, knowledge, and ways of knowing,” said Callie Hill, Executive Director of TTO. “Educating our young people and bringing up a new generation of Mohawk speakers is crucial so our language and culture can thrive. We greatly appreciate the support of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres (FNCCEC), the Government of Canada, the Woodland Cultural Centre and our many supporters contributing to the important work of Indigenous language preservation.”
Canadian Heritage has designated the Mohawk language ‘endangered’, and research by the Canadian Encyclopedia found, in 2018, that the language had just 932 native speakers.
Raising a new generation to speak and write in Mohawk has been a focus for TTO, a not-for-profit based in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, since its founding in 2000. In addition to publishing these books and various other resources, TTO operates a nursery and primary school and delivers an accredited adult language program. Additionally, TTO is engaged in Indigenous Language Revitalization research projects with several post-secondary institutions.
In partnership with FNCCEC supported by Canadian Heritage Aboriginal Languages Initiative Program, TTO began recruiting writers and illustrators in July of 2019 to work on updating 20 existing children’s books and creating 10 original stories.
The books are intended to be suitable for use by teachers, students, parents, caregivers, schools, and libraries to assist with increased literacy and proficiency in Kanyen’kéha, especially for use by primary immersion students, teachers, and families. They will also be released as audiobooks on their website.
The 20 existing books were written by and translated into Kanyen’kéha by Kanatawakon, Professor at University of Western and member of Tyendinaga. The new books were written and illustrated by different members of the Tyendinaga community and broader Mohawk communities, many of them first-time authors, and designed specifically to respond to contemporary issues.
The books are designed to inspire young children to learn and interact with their language. They include fun and educational works such as, “Taking Care of Mother Earth”, “Reyna Really Likes Snow”, “My Grandfather the Farmer”, and “Pizza is my favourite”.
“We wanted to make this a fun and interactive way for kids to learn and interact with the language of our ancestors and to get the Tyendinaga community involved. Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na means “keeping the words alive” and that’s what we hope to do with these books,” adds Hill.
To see a list of the books available head to the organizations website https://tto-kenhteke.org/.