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Healing himself through our language

(COURTESY QUEENIE MCCOMBER)

Sahawisóko Arquette went through some hardships that ultimately led to serious addiction a few years ago.

“In high school, I found myself abusing substances,” said Arquette. “And then I stopped because of something that happened to me. It didn’t go well for me doing that. After that, I reflected, and I realized that I had to do something with the language,” he said.

This month, he finally graduated from the Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program. He is now teaching teachers in Six Nations Kanien’kéha and passing along the great wealth of knowledge and cultural teachings he acquired.

He said that initially, he wasn’t sure what path he wanted to take but for some reason, he knew that it had to do with the language and the culture.

“My brother (Mitch Arquette) used to learn a lot of Kanien’kéha, so he gave me some books and my mother (Queenie McComber) also gave me books. My cousin, who lives right next door to me, we coincidentally started learning at the same time, so that was great. I had everybody’s support,” said Arquette.

His father, Peter Arquette, a first language speaker, also helped Arquette through his language journey.

“I wasn’t worried (about getting into the program). I was nervous rather because I think I only started learning by myself in late 2016,” he said.

With the help of his family, he pushed and did everything he could to learn as much as possible.

“I looked at all the information, and I talked to some people to see what I could do, and my cousin at that time had just completed the first year of the program, and he was helping me out tremendously.

“I wrote my letter of intent because I really could not see myself doing anything else,” said Arquette.

After the interview, which is part of the admissions process, Arquette said the program administrators recognized just how serious he was.

“I consider myself a very active and engaged student even to this day. I practiced and studied every day. If there is a word that I am thinking about, I am going to find that word. That is how I got in. I really showed them that I wanted this,” said Arquette.

When he first started two years ago, he was classified as intermediate low to mid, and now he is at advanced intermediate.

He credits the knowledge he acquired prior to starting the program and said that he had an easier time than some of his other classmates.

“It was pretty hard, but for me, it was very fun because I have always viewed it as a puzzle. I want to know how to use it in any single way that you can,” he said.

“A lot of the time, I would spend just studying and learning what I could and speaking and helping anybody that needed help in the classroom.”

He said that the program is not like traditional schooling and that it’s very interactive, engaging and fun, which turned out to be a really great fit for him.

“I feel really happy about graduating. I accomplished my goal, and I am really happy that I got to do what I did. But in a way, it is a little sad, but that is just how things are, and you have to move on to the different horizons that it opened up for you,” said Arquette.

Through his language journey, Arquette also became more involved with the culture and said he now seeks out cultural events more often than before. “

This is my third week teaching teachers on Zoom from Six Nations, and I am enjoying it,” he said. “I was a little nervous at first, I was apprehensive. I know how to help my fellow classmates, but it’s something else to be the teacher.”

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