Mohawk language revived by First Voices

A trilingual Web tool recently launched in the community ofKanesatake, Quebec hopes to revitalize the nearly extinct Mohawklanguage.

The web application is an extension of the Aboriginal languageand culture Web site produced by the First Peoples’ CulturalFoundation (FPCF) and the Mohawk Language CustodianAssociation.

The Kanesatake Mohawk community is one of sevenpartner communities across Canada establishing new FirstVoiceslanguage archives, according to Peter Brand, co-ordinator,Victoria, B.C.-based FPCF.

He noted there are 42 Aboriginal languages archives at FirstVoices,established by communities in B.C., the Yukon, Alberta, Quebec,Nova Scotia and California.

Hilda Nicholas, director of the Mohawk Language CustodianAssociation, said their role is to revitalize the Mohawk languagethat is becoming extinct.

“We write school curriculum for the Mohawk immersion school (inQuebec), and we work in a community where both English-Mohawk andFrench-Mohawk speakers live,” said Nicholas. “Because our educationhere is mostly in English, whenever we gave classes to thecommunity here in the Mohawk language, the French people were leftout.”

She added they worked with the FPCF for about six months on thesite, with funding provided by HeritageCanada.

“This is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Nicholas. “We hopeto find some more funding so we can build on this site with thelanguage.”

Training consisted of a five day session in Kanesatake deliveredby FirstVoices staff who trained four Kanesatake Mohawk languagearchivists with the FirstVoices team led by Nicholas, according toBrand.

He said there are currently 21 publicly accessible archives withthe balance being password protected.

“All content is developed by the respective First Nationscommunity and uploaded via the Web to the FirstVoices server,” hesaid.

The Kanesatake team was trained on the use of new aUnicode-based font and keyboarding technology for written languagedocumentation, plus collection and editing of digital audio, videoand images, said Brand.

As for the archives themselves, Brand said the Mohawk archivecontains 500 words, 250 phrases, five stories and five songs.

“The overall goal is to bring awareness to the rich Mohawkculture,” said Nicholas. “And to be able to provide the best toolwe possibly can so that we can safeguard our language.”

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