Published April 5, 2017
AKWESASNE — The Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe’s Akwesasne Cultural Restoration (ACR) Program announced the latest recipients of settlement funds to support cultural projects in the Akwesasne Community. The Akwesasne Freedom School’s Language Nest, Akwesasne Cultural Center, and Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment will each receive $100,000 in Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Settlement monies to support their work through the end of 2018.
“I am pleased that deserving groups within our community have been awarded funding to help their efforts to restore and strengthen the Mohawk language and our cultural connection with the environment,” said Tribal Chief Eric Thompson, who also serves as the Tribal Council’s representativeon the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Commission. He noted, “Our language is intrinsically linked to the traditional teachings associated with many of our natural resources.”
On January 4th, a final community callout was made for cultural projects from existing institutions, programs, and individuals involved in Mohawk culture. Thirty-three proposals were received that pertained to various cultural practices; such as hunting, trapping, horticulture, traditional foods, medicine, plants, healing, fishing, river use, basketmaking, and language.
The proposals were ranked by five members of the ACR Commission; who include Dr. Taiaiake Alfred, SRMT Environment Division Director Ken Jock, and three members of the program’s administrative staff. They were ranked based on ten sets of criteria that examined their history, community reputation, record of success, community involvement, project goals, correlation to ACR goals, budget, time period, methods for evaluation, project benefits, support of NRDA mandates, transmission of knowledge to future generations, and promotion of Mohawk language.
“The overall goal of the ACR Program has been seeking opportunities to promote the restoration of cultural practices within the Akwesasne community, including the preservation of the Mohawk language and basketmaking,” said ACR Program Manager Barbara Tarbell. She emphasized,” The incorporation of Mohawk language is an overarching priority identified by the community and is applied to everything we do. I am pleased the three community groups awarded funding make language and cultural education a vital part of their work.”
The three community groups will promote Mohawk language and traditional cultural teachings by undertaking the following projects:
The Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment will implement community workshops for maple teachings, sap collection, seed sharing, Haudenosaunee seed collection, starter plants, black ash tree workshops, basketmaking, fruit trees, orchard maintenance, apple workshops, and Mohawk language curriculum development.
The Akwesasne Freedom School Language Nest will continue providing immersion daycare services that provide a safe, healthy, family oriented place that fosters Mohawk language and cultural education. They will provide children with Mohawk culture and values through activities, healthy eating, consistent routines, storytelling, singing, and interaction with other AFS students and elders.
The Akwesasne Cultural Center will implement a project to support Mohawk language and transmission of language to future generations through signage, brochures, and technology throughout Akwesasne. Signage will be used to educate the community and increase our shared Mohawk vocabulary about businesses, rivers, medicinal plants, trails, traditional foods, and many other local places of interest.
In response to being announced as one of three community groups named a recipient of cultural restoration funds, Akwesasne Cultural Center – Museum Program Coordinator Sue Herne shared, “I’m excited to see the results of this signage project! Niawenko:wa to ACR for the funding to put Kanien’kéha Owenna’shón:ah across the community!”
The funds come from a $19.4 million settlement New York State and the Tribe reached in 2013 with Alcoa and Reynolds for damages to natural resources and culture practices due to the release of industrial pollutants into the environment. Combined with $1.8 million in restoration funds from a 2011 General Motors bankruptcy settlement, the two settlements provided $20.3 million toward environmental and cultural restoration, with $8.4 million to strengthen cultural practices through the ACR Program.
The three community groups will join three institutions previously awarded four-years of NRDA funding in 2013; which includes Thompson Island Youth Camp, Healthy Heart Raised Bed Garden Project, and Kana’stiohareke Mohawk Community. All six projects are funded through the end of 2018
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This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.