The push to keep the Mohawk language alive is getting some federal support.
Ottawa recently announced two grants, including one designated for an Indigenous language and cultural centre on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory that is meant to help solidify a curriculum for teaching the Mohawk language.
According to a federal government news release, the Indigenous Research Capacity and Reconciliation-Connection Grants are designed to support the Canada Research Co-ordinating Committee partnership with First Nations communities to craft an Indigenous training model that contributes to reconciliation.
WATCH: Learn to speak Mohawk
Callie Hill, director of Tsi Tyónnheht Onkwawén:na Language and Cultural Centre in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, is one of the grant recipients and is keen to keep the Mohawk language alive.
Hill applied for the grant so she and others could craft a framework to help people on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and other Mohawk First Nations in teaching and practicing their language, which is now lost to some.
“It’s hard and it takes a lot of commitment and it takes a lot of time and energy, but again, I go back to who we’re doing it for — we have to do it. Adults have to do it so they can teach it to the children,” Hill said.
Hill, who received more than $38,000 from the federal government, says the project began in late 2018 and will finish in October of this year.
The project will consist of two gatherings. The first will focus on Mohawk teachers and speakers, who will craft the more practical parts of the curriculum, while the second will bring together researchers and linguists, who will dig down into the technicalities of the teaching framework.
Hill says Joe Brant, principal of the Quinte Mohawk School and one of the three other grant co-applicants, will be an integral part of the project since he is a fluent speaker of the Mohawk language.
Brant, who also teaches a Mohawk language diploma program with Queen’s University, says there’s one big problem he encounters when creating a curriculum for teaching the Mohawk language — on Tyendinaga Territory, the Mohawk language has already been lost.
“We’re trying to bridge the gap that we have in our community,” Brant said.
“With no first-language, fluent speakers, we’re relying on sister Mohawk communities of Kahnawake, Kanehsatake and Akwesasne, where they still have fluent speakers.”
This is why Hill says what is learned from and shared at the gatherings will also be shared with a wider audience when the curriculum is complete.
“This will benefit Indigenous language programs everywhere because we’re all going through the same thing,” she said.
—With files from Alexandra Mazur