K/G gala: Emotions of the past encourage thoughts for the future

OHSWEKEN – Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Mohawk and Cayuga Language Immersion School held a fundraiser gala to help raise funds for a new school and raised a whopping $20,866 before gross expenses.

The gala, held in the banquet hall at Six Nations Polytechnic last Thursday, featured three lots full of silent auction items. There were hand-made moccasins, soap stone carvings and much more donated by generous individuals. Guests were entertained by the likes of Bear Fox and “Big Joe” and were fed a three-course meal during throughout the silent auction.

Just before the main course was served, teacher and former vice-principal of Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Candice Squire came forward to address the audience. Squire has been with the school since it began in the 1986.

“In a month or two before September, we were told that we could start an immersion school. We had 26 Mohawk students and 18 Cayuga students,” said Squire. “Where we went was into buildings people didn’t want and for the Mohawks, we went into the old Number One School, the real old Number One School. It was so old that the mice learned how to speak Mohawk,” she joked. “For the Cayugas, the veterans let them go into there to learn their language, but the kids talked about when they had to clear beer bottles away. That’s the kind of things we went through in the start. We were there for quite a few years at the Number One School,” she said, as she explained how Mohawk students went to Oliver M. Smith Elementary (OMSK) and the Cayuga students went to I.L. Thomas later. But, things didn’t work out for the Mohawk Students at OMSK.

“Then we went to the old Number Five school this time, just after Polytechnic moved into this nice new building. But, we stayed at the old Number Five School until the ceilings were falling down, mold was all over the place and the pipes were no longer working. We stayed there and finally we had to leave, and they invited us to come to [Polytechnic] for the last few months of school,” she said. “So, we came to Polytech, I can’t remember years, but we had to be out of here by the end of the school year and we didn’t know where we were going. Then along came a nice, friendly, kind-hearted person who took us to his building, and it was at the I.L.A.,” she said, as her eyes began to water. “And he showed us this big open barn like thing above the arena, and we were like ‘yeah it’s nice here, we could probably make it do,’ and so we all agreed that that was where were going to move,” she said, explaining that the Cayuga students were going to remain at I.L. Thomas.

“About August, a meeting was called and they got called into the I.L.A. and we walked in there and they had this big beautiful school for us,” she said, as both herself and members of the audience let tears fall. “It was beautiful for us because we never had anything like it,” she said. “Any place we went through in our time at Kawenni:io, learning the language, we’ve always made it home. Even when we were at that old school where the kids first went in and sat on upside down garbage cans, and when the windows were boarded up,” she said. “But, it’s been fun going through all of the struggles.”

After completing her emotional speech, she later returned to the podium to explain that the “nice, friendly, kind-hearted person” was Kurt Styres, who housed Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo students and staff within the I.L.A. for more than five years.

But, the determination to have a school to permanently call their own rang true, as the winning bids for items were set from $100 to $700 dollars and the 50/50 ticket draw awarded more than $1500. It is safe to say that with the willing support of those hoping to make this Mohawk and Cayuga immersion school continue on into the future, the new school or “home” will be achieved and cherished.

If you would like to help by providing a monetary donation to the building fund, visit www.kgps.ca.

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