SNP and OTF standing against language loss

OHSWEKEN — Six Nations Polytechnic (SNP) has been approved for an Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) SEED Grant worth $70,000. The grant is to help assess strategies for preserving Haudenosaunee languages.

Several prominent dignitaries came to SNP last Thursday during the Six Nations Language Conference to share the news — SNP President Rebecca Jamieson, Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill, Minister of Education Liz Sandals, MPP Brant Dave Levac and OTF board member Amos Key Jr. were all in attendance.

Each shared what the grant means to them personally and how the funds will greatly benefit the community; their presence and encouraging words were enough to touch several individuals in the Grand Hall, including Brenda Thomas.

“I’m touched by the words from these ministers and other leaders,” said Thomas, a health advocacy worker at Six Nations Health Services. “If it weren’t for the fight that they have within themselves to preserve our language, events like this [the language conference] wouldn’t be taking place.”

Thomas also commended the leaders for their efforts in garnering so much attention towards the dire condition of Haudenosaunee languages.

”My heart is heavy when I hear about our language loss, but I am thankful for the few language and knowledge keepers we still do have with us,” she said. “It’s because of them and grants like this that will help our young children know their language.”

The $70,000 will be given to SNP throughout a period of 12 months — February 2016 to February 2017 — to help create more speakers of Haudenosaunee languages in the shortest period of time. There are six Haudenosaunee languages spoken in the community and each are critically endangered.

“This initiative will help us build an inclusive and engaged community of language educators and create even better supports for second language learners in our community,” said Jamieson.

This grant lines up with the SNP’s new three-year Bachelor of Arts degree in Ogwehoweh Languages in Mohawk and Cayuga. The degree program makes SNP the first Indigenous institute established under First Nations authority to offer a standalone degree. Students who already completed the SNP’s diploma program were the first to begin taking the degree classes starting in January 2016.

“I want to congratulate Polytech again on yet another grant,” said Chief Hill. She said it seems like the institute is constantly generating grants and donations due to the “fine work that the staff here at Polytech are doing.”

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