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Relatives across the ocean visit Kahnawake to share stories

On July 27, Kanien’keháka and the Maori people came together to share stories and create new memories. (Courtesy Ieronhienhawi McComber)

Saturday, July 27 was an eventful day for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake Longhouse with some very inspiring relations visiting from New Zealand. The Maori delegation spent the day in Kahnawake in the spirit of language revitalization.

Kahnawake and the Maori people have worked together in recent years and continue to strengthen the relationship.

“We’ve all faced common histories dealing with colonization,” said Kanentokon Hemlock. “We can all learn from each other as to how we can and can’t bring our languages back to full strength.”

Sharing experiences with language issues throughout Indigenous nations is important to Hemlock and many others because it motivates language learners to keep going.

“Everyone has their own methods and strategies they’ve tried, and it’s also encouraging when we can get together to share those stories,” said Hemlock. “It is important to see that (language revitalization) is happening all over the world.”

Hemlock was also involved in the annual Great Law recital hosted by the 207 Longhouse.

Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program graduate Tioniatarishon Jacobs was inspired by the stories and lessons that came from the Maori’s visit.

“It was awesome,” he said. “They shared some amazing stuff, especially the fact that Maori is the official second language of New Zealand. That knowledge motivates us as learners to make our next moves.”

The day started off with some beautiful sunshine, and opening words from the longhouse. The Maori responded with thanks, all in their own language of course.

“It was moving to see all these people that started not knowing any of their language, and (now) be able to speak fluently to each other,” said Tiakoteierenhton Diabo.

Diabo is attending Ratiwennahní:rats and has a passion for learning the language, making the Maori visit a very important day for her.

“It gave a little insight for all the language learners that if you work hard enough, something will come out of it” she said.

Song and dance followed the opening, where each nation demonstrated and explained their songs and dances.

The haka, popularized by the New Zealand rugby team, was a goose bump inducing performance and it left the room in applause.

“Their songs and dances have so much power and emotion to them,” said Diabo. “It was honestly so beautiful.”

Song and dance weren’t the only trade happening throughout the day.

“One of the things that they shared is a common message, that we have to be disciplined, strict and committed to this work,” said Hemlock. “We have to be real about (language) and not get comfortable in thinking that what we’re doing is enough. We still have a long way to go until our languages are out of that endangered zone.”

Jacobs also walked away with a lesson.

“Keep speaking and keep learning. It’s important that we keep those ties with (the Maori) and learn off of each other,” he said.

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