Robyn Kanatenhá:wi Montour was excited to tell her father Eugene “Nuge” before he passed away that she would be learning the language he lost in residential school. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)
Translated by: Harvey Satewas Gabriel
Ne ne Tsit’karahkwínekens nokwáti Kanonká:ronte.
Tsi iat’tkahíne iekeha ioronhiákent, ok ki seriwanóntons Robyn Kanatenha:wi Montour nontié:ren tsi ie’iakokontákwen tsi teiako’niotátie iatahiakót’kawe tsi iako’nikonrahronhia’kénstha tsi ionteweiénstha naronkhátsera ahonhnontonhniónheke naiáwens ne Kanienkéha n’iahonronhkhátsera’ié:rike ne tsi ne ne oh’nakènkha wenhnítare ne Kanienkéha Ratiwennahnírats ne ne ionkwetowánens Ronteweiénstha Rónstha, tánon ne tekariwaserákwen kwah íken tsi iah tewenhtóre.
‘”Kheién:a,” wah’eron. “Tewakatonhontsóni nakerihónhnien. Tewakatonhontsóni n’akheié:nawa’se. Tewakatonhontsóni taiakwata’tié:nawa’se niaiakwatasónteren, káti tethenitsáron iontiaterién:tare nontiaronhkhátsera.”
Ieia’tatóken Montour, 6 nitsakóion, tanon Karonhianónhnha nón:we ieionteriwaiénstah. Tsi skátke ne onisténha tánon nakoiénha tiateriwaiénstha naronkhátsera, tekenitsáron wake’niweienté:ta’ne tsi iakeni’ronhkhatseraién:ri’ne ne teioseráke nontá:we.
“Ahònha wakerihonhniénhni, ó:ni í:i kerihonhniénhni,” wakénron Robyn. “Tewakatonhontsó:ni nahónronhke nakoronhkhátsera tsoríwa tsi ó:nenk tsi aktenón:we enwateweienstána, kwáh tsi n’í:i niwatiéren.” Robyn ne sakoienkèn:en kenhne ne Eugene “Nuge” ó:ni ne Joyce Montour, tánon tekeníhaton io’rihowánen sahatenikonro:tási n’ètho wahakoié:na’wase tsi niaháhe ne Kanien’kéha wakaronkatseraién:rite tsi rathahíne ne Eugene nonakènkha wenhnítare tsi natehoniotátie ne takwahàson ne 2016 nónenh ne Robyn waheriwatsénhri tsi wahontatiéna thóh tsi ionteriwaiénstahkwa.
“Wakeriwaktsénhri tsi tahion’kate’wenhnàtahase, tánon tsi ia’keion’hontaientáhkwa iékeskwe skátne ne rahónha” Wakénron ne Robyne. “Thoh nitskótakwe skátne ne rahónha, tánon átste niatiáken’ne. Nónenh sahiró:ri, thontásawen wak’kaséntho tsioríwa tsi séhkon ronikonraiéntas tánon wahénron, ‘tsi nia’kená:ien’ne ne sariwáke.’”
Robyne seh ra’othinishò:kwah íken ne raoti’wáhtsires ne takowánen ronwatsíh:a Shawn tánon ne tia’tenosénha Shelly.
Robyn ronwaníha tsi ionteweienstákwah iehenteróntakwe shoniakénhen.
Ne sakoiénha, ó:nen 36 nateiakahoserihiákon, kwáh ne ia’tenstiá:terike’ne n’ètho ne iotónh’on n’akowátsire tsi nihotirihóten.
“Kwáh nek tsi ni’wakattshennónhni tsi ónton wahiró:ri n’ètho kwáh thóh nénhtiere ó:ni tsi enkeweienté:tane n’akaronhkhátsera wakenron Robyne. “Wakateriéntare tsi iostóre ense’shonkwa’iatón:ti, tánon ki io’rihowánen.
Tsi iontahíne iah tewatsiésen, ne Robyne, ne tekeníhaton iéhiete tsi ionteriwaiénsta, teiakò’niote naiewehientéthane n’ètho ronwakénha skátne iateweiénstha tsi níiot ne watokátane tsi wahaweienté:tane.
“Iah tatkwéni ne shékon ahontakatásawen nakenikonraién:tate” wakénron. “Kí:ken ratiksahokónhas 18 iawénre tanon tiohton iawénre n’atehonoserihiákons, ne kén’en thóh nónwe níkes ne oksténha ake’nikón:ra.”
Tsi nióre tsi ahínon iontsatenhawíton nia’tewenhniseráke wakerenhnahonhátie tsi ionteweienstákwah, kéntons ne iatewatsiestonhátie ne èneken í:ken ne ionteweienstakwahkó:wa onikón:ra í:ken, ne ne kwah í:ken tsi ioní:ron ne Robyne akoriwáke.
Onhní:iot tsi iatia’kót’ka’we tsi n’ateiakoniothatse?
“Shékon kí iatenkót’kawe,” wakénron. “Tsi nióre tsi ioníron kwáh í:ken tsi keriwanónhwes naronkhátsera sénha tsi ni’tsotónhne tioríwa tsi iahá:khe’we tsi nióre tsi tekariwak’khánion.”
Robyne ó:nenh ionhniontonhniónkwas niahiontashónteren nateriwaienstátsera ne kwáh èneken tióte tsi enionteweiénste, tánon thóh niehèntien tsi entiakoióten ne Kanawà:ke ne Nithotiiónsas nón:we nihonwathikáriakse ó:ni nowísta nónwe níken kwáh tsi niiostóre eniésha tsi ionteweiénstha.
Teiakontonwentsó:ni noriwí:io aiakónhni ne ontatién:a naienónhwene naronhkhátsera tánon kwáh enhon’tsiesénhake tsi taiethá:ren shékon nó:nen enhiontorísen ne Karonhianónhnha èneken ionteweienstákwa. Ne ne tsi ni’iakónnhes í:ken tánon waketenikonrónhni tsi enkeweienté:ta’ne tánon enkherihónhnien ne kheién:a
Special journey is gift for father and daughter
The path remains trying, but ask Robyn Kanatenhá:wi Montour why she continues to struggle through comprehending the myriad of linguistic concepts in hopes of Kanien’kéha fluency, as she is in her final months of the Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program, and the answer to why she does the work is simple.
“My daughter,” she said. “I want to teach her. I want to help her. I want us to help each other to continue on, so we both know our language.”
Ieia’tató:ken Montour is six, and attends Karonhianónhnha Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa.
With the mother and daughter immersed in the language, the pair has grown in their fluency together over the past two years.
“She’s teaching me, I’m teaching her,” said Robyn. “I want her to know her language because eventually she’s going to go to school somewhere else just like I did.”
Robyn is the daughter of the late Eugene “Nuge” and Joyce Montour, and had a second major inspiration that helped her along her Kanien’kéha fluency journey.
Eugene was in his final months in his battle with cancer in 2016 when Robyn discovered she was accepted into the program.
“I found out I got the call, and I was in the hospital with him,” said Robyn. “I was sitting with him, and I ran outside. When I told him, I started to cry because he still kind of understood and said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’”
Robyn is the baby of the family with an older brother Shawn and sister Shelly. Robyn’s father was a residential school survivor, and, like many Onkwehón:we across Turtle Island, did not have the opportunity to learn and speak his language, though Robyn said he tried his best.
His daughter, now 36, will reconnect with that lost part of her family’s culture.
“I’m just happy that I got to tell him that I’m going to do it and I’m going to learn my language,” said Robyn.
“I knew he was going to be passing away soon, and it was important. Even though he didn’t know his language fully, he spoke what he could.”
When she finishes her program, Robyn knows her father will be there with her, beaming with pride.
“I wish he would have been here to see me graduate, but I’m happy that he knew before he passed away that that’s what I was going to do,” said Robyn.
The journey was not easy, as Robyn, the second oldest in the program, struggled to build skill that her much younger classmates seemed to pick up quickly.
“I can’t even begin to explain,” she said. “These kids are 18 years old, 19 years old, and here I am getting in there with my old frickin’ brain already finished high school, finished college, finished university, working, not fresh out of school – completely different environment.”
Being so far removed from daily learning in a classroom meant reconnecting to an academic mind-set, which was very hard for Robyn.
How did she get through the struggle?
“I’m still getting through it,” said Robyn. “It’s so hard. I really have an appreciation for the language more than I did before now because I realize how complex it is.”
Delving into the language opened a whole new world for Robyn that was so deep and complex she thought of quitting at times, rather than struggle through concept after concept.
“It’s overwhelming at times,” she said. “Just the amount that we have to take in a process is a lot. To be honest, there were a few times when I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I’m too old.’”
Get through it she did, however, adding that her classmates were always ready to help her and other students who were struggling over the two years. The atmosphere in the classroom was pleasant, according to Robyn, and her fellow students joked around at times and kept the mood light throughout.
“We had a very good group, I found,” she said. “The dynamics of our group – there were a lot of young kids – and they were very helpful to me. If I had a question, I know there are certain ones I can go to. We helped each other get through it.”
Robyn now is considering continuing her education at grad school, and she will return to her work full-time at the Kahnawake Youth Center’s payroll and finance department as soon as she finishes the program.
Robyn admits that the journey with Ieia’tató:ken will not end overnight, but the two speak together and grow together in the language.
She wants to ensure her daughter enjoys the language and is comfortable conversing even after she leaves Karonhianónhnha for high school.
“Now I’m just kind of trying to ease it in there,” said Robyn. “To me it’s a life-long process. You’re never going to become fluent because you can learn so much. There’s so much to learn. There are so many aspects to it that you’re just going to be constantly learning.
“Even if I become a superior speaker, there’s still more that I can learn. It’s a lifelong process and I plan on continuing to learn it and teach it to my daughter.”