Our Language Carries Us

Posted by on Jan 12, 2013 in Languages, Opinion


First I want to thank Christi Belcourt for honoring me by asking me to add this post to this blog. I have much respect for her.  Dreams are sacred to me and have helped me get through a lot in my life. Some are personal and some I feel I might do some good by sharing.

This past year I have experienced a lot of happiness, strength and enlightenment professionally and as a human being. It was also a very difficult year as I lost my Grandmother. She was an amazing woman and I thought she was indestructible. She had cancer and will all my heart I believed cancer was no match for her. She passed away and I thanked her for the path she made.

During her lifetime she did a lot of work to revive the Mohawk language, and she supported me in my efforts to do the same. I didn’t know anyone else knew how much it meant to revive our language in my house, with my kids, but one day she told me that she knew I’d learn it one day, because she could see I brought the language into my heart. It made me so happy that someone acknowledged that about me.

The other night I was feeling very sad. My husband and kids each tried in their own loving ways to make me happy but I was weighed down by regret. I realized earlier that day that there was time in my life when I was surrounded by Mohawk language speakers. I had my father, both grandmothers, my great aunts and uncles. Diabetes took them one by one and there were a sad string of years when I spent a lot of time in the funeral home as my family said goodbye to another loved one. My priorities were elsewhere during these years. That’s what hurts the most. All of my questions were a phone call away but I just didn’t know enough to learn back then.

I feel that it takes a courageous person to look the facts straight on and say “Our language has been carried through the darkest times by our brave ancestors. We have the time now to preserve it for the next generation. If we do nothing, each elder that passes takes another huge chunk of knowledge with them.” The Mohawk I speak currently is not the same as how the elders speak. The only way to reach a high integrity of the language, not speaking “baby talk”, is to live in the language. So what are my chances now to reach a decent level? Listening to one radio show a week? Having a few words translated here and there?

mohawkboardBefore going to sleep, the hurt began to make me think negatively. I tried very hard to keep a good mind and told myself it was just because I have not burned tobacco and given thanks personally in a long time. I made a plan to do just that soon.

Then before I woke up I dreamt I was giving thanks, in our tradition of offering a personal thanksgiving to all living things on earth. I was standing in an international forum with my friend and coworker by my side. She was encouraging me. Elders from my community were there and the people listening wanted to truly understand our way of thinking and how we relate to the world as Onkwehon:we.

As I started out with the opening, I could feel my nerves allowing negativity to try to surface, then I felt mind straighten out and I thought to myself, I am focusing only on the higher purpose of this event and this act. Then the Mohawk words started flowing and I could feel the strength. I talked about love and as I said the words I could feel a great love of everyone in the room. Then I talked about strength and I could feel the real strength of everyone in the room. Then I forgot how to say a word. I turned to my left and my father was there, sitting down. He’s been passed on for 12 years, but it felt natural to see him. There was an inner light from him, I think I saw his aura. I asked him how to say a word and he said “Tionhnhe”. I thanked him and finished my speech.

When I woke up after the dream, I felt so happy that I cried. The word he gave me means “We’re alive.” Some dreams have been able to restore me spiritually and guide me during critical times. This dream completely lifted me up and dusted me off.

I’m more than happy to share this dream if it inspires others to take time to learn from your family while they’re still here.

Thank you.

– Konwennenhon

Konwennenhon Marion Delaronde is currently the director of Tota tanon Ohkwa:ri, a children’s puppet television show that helps to keep the Mohawk language alive.  She is an animator, illustrator, set designer, puppet builder, script writer, and the author of her own comic strip “Dementophobia” published in the local paper.  She has a BFA from Concordia University in Film Animation and is passionate about using art as a way to celebrat Kanien’keha language and culture.


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