The Gleaner
Arts & LifeSharing Our Stories

Sharing Our Stories May 29, 2024

Story told by: Susan Simon
Edited by: Emma McLaughlin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Translated by: Sahawisó:ko’ Arquette

If you don’t use it, you can lose it

All that was spoken in our house was Mohawk. When we started going to school, our father would say, “Tóhsa satá:ti thí: Tiohrhèn:sha,” which means, “Don’t speak that English.” I am so happy he did that because we would have lost our language. You know, if you don’t use it, you can lose it.

I learnt my Mohawk in my home and at church. Our church was English but most of the songs we’d sing were in Mohawk, so that’s how I learnt the wording. It’s broken down into syllables in there.



I was working in Montreal at the Royal Bank in the import and export department. Then I got transferred to work in the collections department. My department at the Royal Bank was moving to Toronto and I said I couldn’t go because my husband was a paramedic in Montreal. So then I went looking for a job in Kanesatake at the language centre, and I got hired right away.

I’ve helped write a lot of books. I helped with the typing, but it would take so long because the language is not like English. There are only 11 letters in our language, but there are so many accents. Language groups in several Mohawk communities have used those books we made.



A lot of people in Kanesatake are Longhouse, so a lot of the stories they would write are about their culture. You learn a lot when you write their books.

The old language centre, when I was working there, used to be a school for the French who would come there by buses. We would work out of one section of that building. The building was torn down because it had asbestos, so now the new building is on Joseph Swan Road, near the health center.

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