Two Tyendinaga residents honoured for language revitalization

Alfred Keye, Cayuga Language Teacher, reading the Conference program
Alfred Keye, Cayuga Language Teacher, reading the Conference program

Thotharatye Joe Brant and Tewateronhiakhwa Mina Beauvais, both Mohawks living in Tyendinaga, were awarded the Language Passion Award and Lifetime Achievement, respectively, at the 2013 “Raising Our Voices: Biannual Language Conference” Awards Banquet.  The 2013 Biannual Language Conference was held October 25th and 26th.

The Biannual Language Conference was hosted by Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council in partnership with the Woodland Cultural Centre and Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna Language and Cultural Centre.  The two day conference was packed with useful and interesting information to support language initiatives.

The theme of this year’s Raising Our Voices Biannual Language Conference was appropriately entitled, “Rekindling our Fire”.  This year’s recipients have “kept the embers burning in preparation for the time when all of our communities would ignite with passion for our languages and traditions.”

Award recipient Thotharatye Joe Brant, Bear clan and a member Tyendinaga, “demonstrated excellence and determination through his commitment to language work within the community”.  Brant lives in Tyendinaga with his wife and two daughters, all of whom speak Mohawk.  His university education coupled with his Mohawk language training in Tyendinaga and Ohsweken has prepared him to teach from the kindergarten up to the high school level.

Now as the Vice-Principal at Quinte Mohawk, he also teaches in the Mohawk Language Enrichment Program.

Tewateronhiakhwa Mina Beauvais was recognized for her “outstanding achievement and contributions to language preservation and revitalization….”   Beauvais’ taught in five Mohawk communities; Kanesata:ke, Kahnawake, Wahta, Tyendinaga, and Kanatsyohare:ke.  She is originally from Kanesata:ke and grew up with Mohawk as her Mother Tongue.  A playwright at heart, she has written a number of comedies that have been performed in her home community.  Currently, she is “Tota” at the Totahne Language Nest in Tyendinaga, where she is able to work with young children before they head to Kawenna on:we Primary School.

At the conference, Friday’s keynote speaker was Dr. Lorna Wanosts’a’ Williams, from the University of Victoria.  Her speech was entitled, “Regenerating and Creating Communities of Speakers.”  Dr. Williams is a member of the Lil’wat First Nation of Mount Currie.  She is the chair of the First Peoples Culture Council and an advocate for Indigenous languages and culture.

Also from Tyendinaga was presenter Kanonhsyonne Jan Hill, Executive Director of First Nations Technical Institutes.  She explained and discussed that the responsibility of language acquisition falls on everyone in the community.  Karihwawishon Brown, Thohtharatye Brant, Brant’s wife, and moderator Laura Maracle, held a panel discussion regarding advantages and obstacles to second language speakers raising children in the Mohawk language.

In addition, Thanyehtenhas Nathan Brinklow, Shatiwennakara:tats Adult Immersion Instructor, brought everyone into the computer age by discussing computer applications that aid in language retention.  Konwanonhsiyohtha Callie Hill, Executive Director of Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawen:na,  discussed the early stages of her research for her Master’s thesis through the University of Victoria.

The other Lifetime Achievement Award recipients were Vernon Roote from Saugeen First Nations, Martina Osawamick from Wikwemikong, and Arenho:ktha Thomas Deer from Six Nations.

Sponsors and hosts of the Conference included:  Woodland Cultural Centre, Sweetgrass Language Council, Inc., Village Variety and Gas Bar, Rez Cresting Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Tsi Tyonnheht Onkwawenna, and The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.

If you would like to participate or donate to the Sweetgrass First Nation’s Language Council, contact Angie Monture at the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford, Ontario (519) 759-2650 extension 237.

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