Alex Tekonwahkwen:ni Cross always wanted to learn her Mohawk language but never really had the opportunity.
Now that she’s the mother of a five-month old, she enjoys her time in the Language Nest – where every word is in Kanienke’Ha.
“Everyone here is supporting each other and they are helping each other and right down to your child,” she said.
“I am sitting there and trying to learn someone might come in and hold your baby for you while you are learning and give it back to you so it is very supportive here.”
The Language Nest launched four years ago to address the loss of Mohawk as a first language.
“It is a natural environment right, a home environment but there is also some structures implemented throughout the day to help the parents as second language learners,” said Tatum Leronhienhewi McComber.
“So it is very important to have the natural environment for the children to learn the language as their first language because the parents are learning as a second language they get the grammatical structures.”
The program just got a big financial boost from the federal government.
The Department of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism is providing $275,558 over two years to “preserve and promote the Mohawk language.”
Marc Miller, the parliamentary secretary to Crown-Indigenous Relations, and a Mohawk speakers, said this is a step toward a path for promoting Indigenous languages.
“With great respect for the efforts that people have made to preserve the language to struggle and hopefully the struggle will be lessen the next few years as we engage in a path which a lot of people is quite difficult but very important but a path of mutual respect that includes promotion of indigenous languages,” he said.
Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton said it is not the responsibility of the Canadian government to preserve the language – but they have to support it.
‘’It is not their responsibility it is ours but it is the responsibility of the government of Canada as well as other institutions to ensure that they support these activities.
“It is the oppression it is all of the things that were done to us historically to take away that language now we are bringing it back and it is time for the government to support what we are doing that is the way I look at it’’
For Cross, the dream of having her daughter speak Mohawk as a first language is coming true.
“Sometimes when you leave here I am thinking in Mohawk but I do not know what these words mean,” she said.
“But I know that it is starting to sink in and it is starting to work you know.”
The federal government announced $89.9 million over three years on Indigenous languages and culture across the country.
It also promised to introduce legislation to protect languages in law.
20 consultation sessions were held to hear from people across the country.
According to Canadian Heritage, the legislation is scheduled to be tabled in the House of Commons by the end of the year.