Running to raise funds for Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo

Almost 35 years later, Six Nations’ first language immersion school still has no space of its own.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 students at Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo are currently learning out of a makeshift space on the second floor of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena, as community members, staff and parents continue to push for funds to build a new, roughly $17 million school.

Since I first started working on Six Nations in 2004, I have been fascinated by the idea of Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo. The fact there are culturally-knowledgeable adults devoting their lives to teaching upcoming generations of youth how to speak one of the languages, and the culture that goes along with it, while also completing a western education, really spoke to me.

I see it as one of the most enduring ways the community has continued to regain the culture and language lost through colonization and residential schools. The tenacity of the students and staff, to keep going despite all of its funding challenges, continues to amaze me.

Whenever I hear of fundraising or think of fundraising, Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo is always first on my mind. With the amount of articles I’ve written on this ongoing story for the past decade, I’ve always been perplexed at the struggle it’s been to get the funding needed for this amazing school.

That’s why, when I lace up my shoes with two strong Six Nations women – Brenda Mitten and Kris Davis – this Sunday for the 30 km Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, I will be running for Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo.

The three of us are kindly asking for community support in the form of donations to sponsor our run this weekend in the name of Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo.

The school name, Kawenni:io (Mohawk) and Gaweni:yo (Cayuga), translates to “good-sounding words.”

This year, 2022, also marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade of Indigenous Languages. 500 years after violent global colonization, Indigenous languages are making a comeback and the youth are growing up immersed in their own culture and language. But it shouldn’t be such a struggle for funds.

It’s unconscionable that trying to get the funding for this much-needed school has been so difficult, while similar amounts are frittered away by our government on a daily basis on completely unnecessary projects. So let’s take matters into our own hands.

Brenda and Kris will be doing the 5 km distance and I’m doing the 30 km distance.

It’s an amazing and historical race because it’s the oldest road race in North America and it’s also the first race that legendary Six Nations distance runner Tom Longboat won in 1906. He won by three minutes, marking the start of his extraordinary running career.

We are eternally grateful for your support. You can send donations of any amount via etransfer to d_duric@yahoo.com.

Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo Principal Dr. Jeremy Green (Tehota’kera:tonh) and Board Chair Ruby Jacobs are aware and supportive of the fundraiser.

All funds raised will be presented to the school board in the week following the race. If you have any further suggestions for help in this fundraising effort, please email d_duric@yahoo.com.

The race will attract thousands of international runners and media and begins roughly at 9 a.m. in front of First Ontario Centre in Hamilton.

In the meantime, to learn about this amazing school, please visit www.kgps.ca. You can also donate via a donation form on the school Web site at the bottom of the home page.

Thank you and Nya:weh from the bottom of our hearts!

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