Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton Graduates Thirteen Apprentices

 

January 4, 2018

Master Teacher Iaontaná:wen Adams, Hunting and Trapping and his apprentices: Tehawenniseráthe Adams, Ranekénhteron Johnson and Teiohontsiakwénte Skidders.

On Friday, December 15, 2107, the Tsi Snaihne Recreation Center was witness to a historic graduation; the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program – Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton graduated 13 of their apprentices after four intensive years of studies in their pursuit of Kanien'kéha cultural knowledge and language.

The Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program is the result of a settlement of approximately $8.4 million in 2011 from Alcoa/Reynolds and part of a larger $19.4 million settlement with Alcoa Inc. and Reynolds Metals Company. For decades, Alcoa Inc. (Alcoa West), Reynolds Metals Company (now Alcoa East) and the former GM Central Foundry plant released hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River environment. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aluminum, fluoride and cyanide adversely impacted natural resources within the surrounding environment and contaminated Akwesasne, damaging natural resources used for centuries old traditional cultural practices.

The Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program was created to support traditional Mohawk cultural practices, with the focus on an apprenticeship program to revitalize Mohawk language and traditional teachings. Soon after the start of ACR, the apprentices had chosen their own name - Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton meaning – 'To Make New Again".

Calls went out in 2013 for Master Teachers and soon after for apprentices in four different, yet intrinsically connected, areas; Hunting & Trapping, Fishing & River Use, Traditional Medicines & Healing and Horticulture & Basket Making.

The primary responsibility of the master teacher was to work with the apprentices on a daily basis, instructing them on traditional cultural practices of the four identified activities of our ancestors.

The graduation ceremony was inspiring, personal and a testament to the hard work and dedication of each apprentice, their master teachers, the ACR staff and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division. Master Teacher, Dorothy Lazore provided intensive language classes for the early part of their day. As each apprentice continued with their master teacher, the language was supported, reinforced and reiterated. The cultural teaching and practices would be impossible to teach without Kanien'kéha and Kanien'kéha would be meaningless without cultural teachings and practices.

Far right Master Teacher Nikanerahtha Peters, Fishing and River Use and his apprentices: Kawisenéntha, Tewàkeraáhkwa Herne, and Ratsihko'iaks Sunday.

Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton worked closely with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs; their environment divisions, social, health and wellness programs, local schools and summer camps. By the apprentices second year, they were sharing cultural knowledge and practices through workshops, classes, and their yearly Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton Experience.

Wrapping up four years of intensive work and lessons learned by each apprentice was nothing less than emotionally expressive as each apprentice shared their individual experiences. Their Master Teachers also shared their journey from the start of meeting individuals not sure of their own future, to congratulating defined, strong, caring Kanien'kéha speaking graduates with a wealth of cultural and traditional teachings. Instrumental to the success of Á:se Tsi Tewá:ton, was their Master Language Teacher Dorothy Karihwénhawe Lazore and her language support staff; Nihahsenná:a, Kaienkwaenhtha, Kakiohkwaronkwa, Iekennoéstha, and Warisá:ro.

The evening ended with a traditional meal served to family, friends and relatives of the apprentices.

 

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