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Feb 19, 2017

Owira’ne’ha TsiKanonsothe (Language Nest)



This project aligns with the following Sustainable Development Goals. To learn more about the United Nations SDGs, please click here

Akwesasne Freedom School
Mohawk Nation, New York, USA
August 2015

“Therefore, in an effort to revitalize and restore a lost practice of Kaninenkeha being our babies’ first language, a “language nest” has been implemented for the babies and pre-school age children of our staff and siblings of our students. Babies between the age of 10 months and 4 years of age will be immersed in our language, culture and activities in much the same way as our current students. The babies will be taught Kanienkéha in a natural language approach and through a home-like environment for the acquisition of Kanienkéha as their first language in their early years. They are the prime age to absorb the language with no reservations or hesitations, as they do with English now. The babies and pre-schoolers will become first language speakers with or without their parents.”

The Akwesasne Freedom School is part of the Mohawk Nation located in the state of New York. Akwesasne Freedom School is an elementary and middle school that has integrated the Mohawk language and culture into their school. However, many of the students use English as their first language and struggle with understanding Kaniénkeha (Mohawk language). This situation is why the school decided to start a program called Owira’ne’ha or Language Nest.
Children as young as ten months old and as old as four years old will be able to participate in the Language Nest so that Kaniénkeha will become their first language. The reason Akwesasne wants to teach younger children for this program is because they are able to absorb the information better than older children who already know English as their first language. The school will achieve their goal of teaching these young children the Mohawk language by using natural language approach in a home-like environment. A natural language approach includes singing, speaking, and cultural activities gardening and food preparation. Ultimately the Language Nest will help teachers at the Akwesasne Freedom School to focus on teaching rather than translating.