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Survival students transplant trees 

Courtesy Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

After construction of the Kahnawake Cultural Arts Center (KCAC) resulted in the loss of more trees than had been anticipated – nearly 600 in total – Kahnawake Survival School (KSS) students expressed anger, leading the project team to visit the school and vow better collaboration. 

Now KSS students have taken the lead in transplanting more than 60 trees that were preserved from the KCAC site next to their school. 

“I felt pretty good about it,” said grade 11 student Brayden Homer. While Homer is still upset about all the trees that were cut down, he hopes the KCAC project will be put to use to benefit the school’s teachers and students. 

Homer spent nearly four hours digging holes, driving stakes, and performing other tasks necessary to transplanting the trees onto KSS grounds. 

“My experience with it was interesting. I did participate because I wanted to help with putting the trees in the front of the building.” 

Homer was far from the only student taking part Monday, with more than 50 students pitching in throughout the day. 

“It was really beneficial and inspiring that we have students that are ready and willing without question to volunteer themselves,” said KSS teacher Kaherienionta Lahache, who also participated, along with several members of the building committee and the project’s arborist. “It’s amazing to see young people like that.” 

The students demonstrated their collaboration skills, Lahache said, noting how well the older and younger ones worked together. 

“The students that wanted to do this are very dedicated, and they’re loving and caring. They were helping each other, nobody was arguing. It was so smoothly run,” she said. 

“Nobody complained. Everybody was covered in mud and soaking wet because it had rained that morning. It was just phenomenal.” 

She also noted that the tree replanting was an educational opportunity for students. 

“The students were able to actively participate in learning, a hands-on situation of what it’s like to dedicate yourself to put time in and volunteer, which is great because it goes on their resume as well,” Lahache said. 

Building committee member Trina C. Diabo noted that the arborist was working with the students throughout the day, teaching not only them but also some of the adults a new skill. 

“Now I know how to plant a tree, so I’m pretty excited about that,” Diabo said. 

She said involving the students was a part of the building committee fulfilling its promise in the wake of the tree cutting. 

“It was a great experience,” said Diabo, with 62 of the 72 preserved trees being replanted that day. 

The next step, when it comes to tree planting, is to figure out where to plant the more than 1,200 new trees the building committee has committed to the community. Diabo said the community will be consulted on where trees are needed. Potential locations can be swaths of land or even people’s personal yards. 

“We’re not rushing it,” said Diabo. “We don’t think we have to do all the tree planting this year. To my surprise, finding areas to plant trees isn’t that easy.” 

Community members and local organizations will also be consulted on what kinds of trees should be planted, Diabo said. 

Many of the trees cut for the new cultural building were mature maples. 

marcus@easterndoor.com 

Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

This article was originally published in print on May 10 in issue 33.19 of The Eastern Door.

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Marcus is a journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.

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Marcus is a journalist and managing editor of The Eastern Door, where he has been reporting since 2021 on issues that matter to Kahnawake and Kanesatake. He was previously editor-in-chief of The Link and a contributing editor at Our Canada magazine.