Tuesday 17 September 2019

Class of the Mohawks: Scholarship for indigenous Canadian students to learn Irish in Galway Gaeltacht

Building links: Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht Seán Kyne TD (right), met with Mohawk Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton and James Kelly, CEO of the Ireland Canada University Foundation
Building links: Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht Seán Kyne TD (right), met with Mohawk Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton and James Kelly, CEO of the Ireland Canada University Foundation

Allison Bray

Indigenous students from a Mohawk first nation in Canada are to spend the summer in the Connemara Gaeltacht as part of a new cultural and language exchange programme.

As of this summer, a scholar from the Mohawk community of Kanawáke near Montreal will be chosen each year to attend an Irish language course at An Cheathrú Rua (Carraroe) in Co Galway.

The unique programme run by the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF) will "enable a Mohawk scholar to explore how the Irish language operates on a daily basis in one of the country's strongest Irish-speaking areas", according to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which unveiled the programme yesterday.

"It is anticipated that this award will open a connection for the people of An Cheathrú Rua with the Mohawk people, with a view to building connections around shared values of language, culture and community," it said.

Mohawk Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton, who attended the launch of the programme by Minister of State Seán Kyne yesterday, said the ancient tribe had a rich history and vibrant culture whose language - which is similar to the Irish language - had been integral to the Mohawk identity.

"I see great similarities between the Mohawk people and the people of Ireland - there is a great spirit, a sense of the importance of our past, of our community," he said. "There are differences to celebrate also, and in this context, I think we have much to learn from each other - we are excited by this scholarship."

Like native Irish speakers, the Mohawk people living in the province of Quebec now speak English in their daily lives, despite originally speaking in their own tongue. Many spoke French when the province was under French rule but today, the majority speak English.

James Kelly, ICUF CEO, said the Mohawk nation played an important role in Canadian life and the scholarship aimed to build links between it, Ireland and Canada.

Irish Independent

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