Karihwakatste Deer, coordinator at the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest, was having a quiet morning until she received a call from Tammy Whitebean informing her that she would be stopping by.
Minutes later, she was surprised to see Whitebean walk in with a homemade afghan to donate to the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest to either keep or raffle away.
Whitebean had been wanting for a while to give an afghan to the language nest, but she just had to find the right time to do it. It had taken her six weeks to create the afghan, a knitted blanket that was made specially for the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest to hang on the wall.
It’s not the first time she has made an afghan to benefit the community, but she wanted this one to stand out from the rest. She thought the afghan with “Every Child Matters” written across it would be the appropriate gift for the facility.
“It felt like a symbol or a message of what was done here,” Deer said. “Our children really do matter.”
Whitebean felt very proud to donate the piece.
“It felt like something I should do,” Whitebean said. “It felt good to give it; it felt right.”
This would also be the first afghan Whitebean made that could hang on the wall for everyone to see, so it was special.
“The afghan really felt like it belonged here,” Deer said. “It really reflects on what was done in residential school and how we’re trying to undo what was done.”
The Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest welcomes parents and caregivers and their young children to learn Kanien’kéha together in an immersive environment.
“It’s important that the community supports the families coming here to feel like the work here is valued. It was an inspirational thing that Tammy has done for the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest. It helps those parents and guardians to continue doing what they are and to bring more Kanien’kéha into the home,” said Deer.
“Language and culture are very important in Kahnawake because we could lose it if we don’t try to learn it.”
Learning Kanien’kéha is one among many cultural teachings offered at the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest. These teachings also consist of ceremonies, planting, cooking, extended family concepts, intergenerational transference of the knowledge, and healthy living, while keeping it fun for the caregivers and their children.
The purpose of the Language Nest is to bring Kanien’kéha into the home, given the dwindling number of fluent speakers.
“The Language Nest is trying to carry on the language, and that’s an important thing in our community,” said Whitebean.
“If people can support more, donate,” she said.
The afghan will be displayed at the Iakwahwatsiratátie Language Nest for everyone to see once their regular program starts back up.
“We’re really grateful to her for donating the afghan to us, and we know it’s going to be appreciated when the people come in to see it. People have only seen it online, but it was given much love,” said Deer.
This article was originally published in print on Friday, July 28, in issue 32.30 of The Eastern Door.