Elected Council to learn Mohawk

Brian Maracle and Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill. (Photo by Jen Mt. Pleasant)
Brian Maracle and Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill. (Photo by Jen Mt. Pleasant)

OHSWEKEN – Spectators were in for a surprise at the opening of a Committee of the Whole meeting at Elected Council last week when three small children with the help of their teacher, read parts of the Thanksgiving Address to Chief and Council. Typically, local Christian Pastors are brought in to pray which opens up the general meeting. 

Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill brought up a motion before a COTW meeting last Tuesday and asked her fellow councillors what they thought about learning a few words in the Mohawk language.

Elected Chief Hill stated that back in March, she attended Brian Maracle’s Kanien’kehá:ka language class for a visit. “He suggested Council start demonstrating the importance of language. For example, we could answer the phones in our own language, including myself. His second suggestion was to take a few minutes to say a few words or a sentence in our language. And his third suggestion would be to greet visitors in our language,” stated Hill.

Most councillors seemed to favour the idea however a few seemed intimidated by the whole idea, especially for those who have probably never spoken the language. District Councillor Carl Hill stated, “I think this is a good thing but, maybe we can just learn one word for now.”

District Councillor, Helen Miller said that when she attends the GREAT meetings, “We all have to sit and read the opening (Ganohonyohk).” Miller stated that she thinks Chief Hill’s idea is a good one. “Look at Kahnawake and Akwesasne, they use the language a lot,” stated Miller.

Councillor Sheri-Lynn Pearce-Hill said, “It’s very important to learn the language. Right now I’m learning Seneca because my husband is Seneca and he is a fluent speaker. We should definitely implement this.”

Councillor Melba Thomas stated that she is learning a bit of the language just by listening to the language classes on the local radio station. “There’s language on the radio so I’m able to learn Cayuga,” stated Thomas.

Elected Chief Hill stated that with the help of Brian Maracle and his students, councillors and herself will learn how to say a few words in the language and also stated she will do a follow up with Maracle to let him know his suggestions were supported by councillors.

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