We can’t wait for permission

Last week Six Nations held a community meeting to give details on the research and vision for the future of education at Six Nations. The full details are on our story on page 3. But there was an invigorating exchange that can’t be left out, and I feel is something that deserves this platform.

One community member was in the audience and asked the Lifelong Learning Task Force if they had engaged the Haudenosaunee Confederacy in their research on language and culture aspects of the future of education at Six Nations. According to officials with the task force, several invitations to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs have been met with silence and no official representation or response.

One task force member answered the question. Her name is Reva Bomberry and is the principal at I.L. Thomas School — one of Six Nations Cayuga immersion schools.

Her response was beautiful.

“I think we all know that we’ve tried. This community is divided. I always say we can’t give up hope. We need both parties to work together. We certainly will benefit from both parties working together. When it comes to language and culture, I’m a confederacy supporter. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any say on what goes on in our community. And I think all of us, no matter what, if we live in this community — then we have a say. We can speak on behalf of the language and culture. So I say that the invitation is always open, and we can’t wait. We can’t wait to have permission to speak for language and culture. We have to do it ourselves. We have to be sure that we speak for our own children and if we don’t speak, who is going to speak for us?”

Bomberry went on to say, “I believe that we as parents, as teachers, as community members need to move forward. We need to have input and we need to have a say. We don’t have to belong to the confederacy. We don’t have to belong to the council in order to say what we think and feel and believe when it comes to language and culture because we all live it. To some degree some of us more, some of us less. But I alway ssay we can’t give up hope. We can’t give up hope that the traditional community will help move forward and stand together in what we believe. And if we don’t have language we don’t have an argument. I think we all need to remember that.”

Her answer was so empowering. We all have a say. While indigenous knowledge keepers do bear some of our stories and history — we still all have a voice, and thoughts and ideas about what we want, and the kind of Haudenosaunee people we want our coming faces to be able to become.

These are now my words: if the Chiefs Council cannot find common ground with Haudenosaunee people of varying backgrounds about the future of this community — the coming faces should not be the ones to suffer. We cannot, and should not have to wait.

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