Tahothoratie Cross (middle with Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer (left) and MCK grand chief Joe Norton) will fly across the Atlantic for the first time in his life to be immersed in the language of the Emerald Isle, as part of a Gaelic-Kanien’kéha exchange beginning Friday. (Daniel J. Rowe, The Eastern Door)
Tahothoratie Cross will boldly go where he has never gone before next week, and speak a language he has never heard by the middle of June.
Cross was at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake office Wednesday with a mix of excitement and nerves. The 20-year-old CEGEP student was selected for the recently-created Mohawk-Irish Language Scholarship, where he will attend a Gaelic Irish course at An Cheathrú Rue in the Gaeltaacht area of Carraroe, County Galway on Ireland’s west coast.
“It’s scary. I’ve never done anything like this, just going away,” he said. “I’ve only been to the US. The furthest I’ve been in Hawaii, so going to somewhere that is so foreign, it’s scary.”
The three-week course begins next Friday and runs to June 19. He will stay with a Gaelic speaking family in a house with other students, and the scholarship covers all food and accommodation costs.
Cross will bring his knowledge of Kanien’kéha and Kanien’kehá:ka culture to the Emerald Isle. He has always been close to the language, attending Karihwanóron Mohawk Immersion School until Grade 4, where he was completely immersed in the language.
“That’s where I learned most of the language that I have,” said Cross.
He transferred to Karonhianónhnha for Grades 5 and 6, and graduated from Kahnawake Survival School.
“I would say I’m much stronger at understanding than as a speaker,” he said. “I would say that’s the part I’ve lost more is the actual speaking.”
“You’ve got to use it,” cut in council chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer during the interview.
“Exactly,” said Cross.
For the past three years, Cross has been studying at Champlain College St. Lambert where he is actively involved as part of the Indigenous Student Ambassadors at the school.
His reason for applying for the Mohawk-Irish Language Scholarship was obvious for any who know the young man.
“It seemed awesome and over the years, all through the different things I’ve done, to try to help the community in any way, help the youth learn our culture, whether it be in the combined (schools committee), all of the activities I did at KSS while I was there, it’s all about helping my community,” said Cross.