(COURTESY RAVEN SWAMP)
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This past weekend was no better example of the magic of the community, coming together as a unit, to fight for a language that means so much to everyone.
Approximately 225 sets of three children’s books were distributed during the launch this past weekend, spreading unique illustrations and timeless nursery rhymes all in Kanien’kéha.
The two-day launch was organized by Jody Jacobs and Josh Sky, a PlanIt Consulting summer student.
The fight for the endangered language has been a crucial theme throughout the community for many years.
“It’s a great initiative for parents like us trying to raise our son in the language,” said Raven Swamp, who volunteered to help give out the free books.
She and her partner Tiio Hemlock read to 15-month-old Tehawè:ras.
“I’m always singing to my son so when I read and sing he loves it,” she said. “He’s always bringing the books to me to sing him.”
Resources to teach are few and far between, she pointed out, forcing parents to create their own resources and translate children’s books.
“But with this initiative the books are already translated into Kanien’kéha,” said Swamp. “Not only does it speak our language but the illustrations depicted in the books are Indigenous representations our children can relate to.”
Examples she pointed out were itsy bitsy spider with moccasins, twinkle twinkle little star with planting mounds, and My Little Sunshine had a ribbon dress and moccasins.
“Our children can relate to these illustrations and say ʻthat’s me.’ That’s so important!”
The ceremony during the launch was opened in Kanien’kéha by Ieronhienhawi McComber of Iakwahwatsiratáties (Language Nest).
Along with this incredible initiative, the books were dedicated to first-language speakers from the community: Shirley Deer, the late Tiorahkwáthe Gilbert and Kateri Deer.
Jacobs presented a set of books to the late Tiorahkwáte’s wife Dodie Gilbert, and other family members. The book Akeráhkwa was dedicated to Tiorahkwáte.
“It was a very emotional ceremony,” said Charleen Schurman, one of the founders of the project, along with Jacobs. “I really just wanted to get the books out into the public efficiently, but in retrospect I would have to say any expectations I did have were exceeded by far.” said Schurman.
The books are now available to buy at the library. The Language Nest will also be selling them in the future and they will be given out during appointments at the KMHC Well-baby clinic for those that missed the launch, as long as supplies last.
The funding to create the books was provided by the Caisse Populaire Kahnawake’s Community Development fund, and some employees were on hand to help.
Katie Diabo, general administrative assistant at the Caisse Populaire, said it’s all about giving back to the community. “It’s nice to be there as a community member and as an employee with the Caisse. I like to help out when I can.
“I liked it a lot. It is a great project for our culture, a great way to teach the young children the Mohawk language,” said Diabo.
She added that the Community Development fund will be promoted after the special General Meeting, which will be held online on August 27 at 6:00 p.m.
“I am deeply grateful for all the collaborations from the funds provided by the Caisse, the volunteer organizers, illustrators, translators and all the community members who showed up to volunteer at the event.” said Schurman.
She also was grateful for The Rail, Black Bridge Brewing, and Tim Hortons, who all sent over free food and supplies for the volunteers.
“When it comes to collaboration, nobody can beat Kahnawake!” said Schurman.