The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Sharing Our Stories July 10, 2024

Story told by: Edna Kwatien:se Norton
Edited by: Owen Mayo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Sahawisó:ko’ Arquette

Good and proud

We didn’t have our language in the schools for quite some time. It started with having Kanien’kéha one hour per week. It was the parents that wanted more language taught in school, but there was a lot of opposition. During that time, the parents formed the parents committee and took the education back from Quebec. They were the ones who pushed for our language and the ones who built the curriculum for how the schools are run today.


Karonhianónhnha students hold up signs with the Kanienkéha words for the months of the year Photo taken in 2000PHOTO Courtesy of Edna Kwatiense Norton

I worked at Karonhianónhnha’ Tsi Ionterihwaienstáhkhwa’ for 20 years, starting in 1989. When I started, they were struggling to find teachers. We had quite a lot of speakers back then but few that would teach. I began as a volunteer teacher’s assistant to help a friend of mine who taught social studies and science because he would sometimes be at a loss for words. As a first language speaker, they knew I could teach so after six months, I began teaching as a grade one teacher. Today, I see a huge change with our language. When former students see me, they speak to me in Kanien’kéha. It makes me feel good and proud to see so many people speaking today.


Students pose for their first grade class photo for Karonhianónhnha school circa 1996 PHOTO Courtesy of Edna Kwatiense Norton

I made sure that we were always doing something different in school. It was not just writing, we made sure to bring in the language with everyday life, whether that be inside the classroom or outside doing an activity.
There were a lot of first language speakers when I started, we had a lot of people to go to for advice. Now, many people are coming to me.



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