Home Arts & Culture Showing off community’s history and culture

Showing off community’s history and culture

Courtesy Courtesy Bronwyn Johns

Local designer Karoniénhawe Diabo, behind She Holds the Sky Designs, has had a bustling few years punctuated with achievements and accolades both internationally and locally.

Last February, she took her designs to New York Fashion Week RISE’s runway, and in May, she helped put on the first-ever edition of Fashion Exhibition Kahnawà:ke. And the list keeps on growing.

Most recently, she was featured in a segment for CBS’s Hidden Gems, where she dives into her fashion journey while also touching on the culture and history of Kahnawake.

“I feel so honoured because I’ve worked so hard at my craft for so many years to get where I am,” said Diabo. She described the kinds of recognition she has received of late as a milestone as an artist and business owner.

“They know about you, they heard about you. So I think that’s a really awesome feeling,” she said.

Last Thursday, Peter Greenberg, travel editor of CBS News, paid a visit to Kahnawake to film the segment.

“They were really happy to be able to put us in a limelight to get people to come to the community when they’re visiting Montreal because a lot of people aren’t aware that we are here,” said Bronwyn Johns, events coordinator at Kahnawake Tourism. 

The segment included a demonstration of what Diabo teaches in her sewing classes, with Diabo setting up the machines and table in the entranceway of the welcome centre. Wahatehontsathsén:ri Delormier, who has modelled for Diabo on many occasions, as well as Johns, were filling in as students for the class. Diabo also demonstrated how to make a medicine bag. 

Another portion of the interview delved into certain landmarks and how they relate to the history of Kahnawake, addressing how colonial influences have left a mark on the community. They passed by the St. Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Church and Kateri School, which Diabo explained was once an Indian Day School. This shifted the conversation into local efforts to commemorate Orange Shirt Day and raise awareness about Every Child Matters and why it’s relevant to this day.

Diabo also spoke of her personal journey as a fashion designer and business owner “walking in two worlds” – on one hand making traditional clothing, and on the other breaking into the fashion industry on a national and international level.

“We’re kind of just in this revival of our designs and wearing our traditional clothing outside of Longhouse. So it’s really important for us to showcase that we’re still here and that the culture is still alive and vibrant,” Johns said.

Diabo echoed this sentiment and emphasized the importance of highlighting economic growth and cultural richness among other thriving aspects in the community.

“I want people to understand that we have a lot to offer,” she said. 

Although the segment profiles her to introduce Kahnawake to Hidden Gems’ viewership, she said she remains mindful of a few things.

“I think I’m always keeping in mind to be respectful and always making sure to mention that I’m speaking for myself and not for my whole community and not for all Mohawk people,” she said. “I don’t want to be representing my whole nation or my whole community, but I do also want to be very proud of where I come from.” 


This article was originally published in print on January 26, in issue 33.04 of The Eastern Door.

Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.