In May, Tsi Ronterihwanónhnha ne Kanien’kéha Language and Cultural Center started a t-shirt fundraiser to raise money for Ratiwennenhá:wi – the adult immersion program in Kanesatake.
Miranda Gabriel, the Cultural Development officer at the cultural centre, said that the program is always in need of funding and support to continue its mandate to revitalize Kanien’kéha in the community.
“There was no specific amount set, but we are always looking for funding. It’s a constant fight to be able to continue this Mohawk immersion program,” said Gabriel.
The three-year program accepts 10 students per year and was designed for speakers at the intermediate to advanced level of proficiency in Kanien’kéha.
Language revitalization is a priority for Kanehsata’kehró:non, and as such, interest in the program is growing, which means that more funds are needed to eventually accommodate the increasing demand.
The Ratiwennenhá:wi t-shirts cost $25 each and are available in sizes from large to double-extra-large.
“The students had chosen a sunflower to represent the coming generations, and we are carrying the sunflower as a symbol to show that we are carrying the language for the coming generations because Ratiwennenhá:wi means ‘they are carrying the language,’” she explained.
Since the fundraiser began, Gabriel said that they had sold a good number of t-shirts, and they are working on raising more money.
“It’s important to continue this language program because the number of first-language speakers that we have left is dwindling so fast,” said Gabriel, who completed the immersion program in 2020.
“Personally, I found with learning my Kanien’kéha language, it gave me a better insight into how previous generations have thought and how my ancestors perceived the world.
“So, it gave me a huge insight into our culture and how when learning your language; it seems simple as ‘oh I’m going to learn another language,’ but for me, it was so much more than that. It was an amazing experience,” said Gabriel.
She explained that often the cultural centre becomes a second home for the students, and everyone, including the faculty, is like a family.
Right now, the team is organizing a graduation ceremony which will take place at the end of the month. The ceremony will also include graduates from the past two years since everything was postponed because of COVID.
“If anybody wants to purchase a Ratiwennenhá:wi t-shirt, they can go to our Facebook page, or they can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Marisela Amador, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door