Creating Speakers and Documenting Our Oral Legacy at Six Nations of the Grand River

All six of the Hodinohsyo:ni languages (Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora) are critically endangered, with few first language speakers remaining. Recognizing that action is required to ensure these vitally important languages are both preserved and stabilized, Six Nations Polytechnic embarked on the first phase of a 3-year Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) grant to create a new group of Advanced-level second-language speakers of Cayuga.

The project follows up on a 2016 study, also conducted by SNP and funded through an OTF SEED grant, that identified sustained instruction in an immersion environment as the best pathway for creating proficient adults.

As Six Nations of the Grand River territory has an on-reserve population of 14,000 and multiple school level programs, online language programs and adult immersion programs working toward revitalizing language, it is hoped that the project will benefit the members of the Six Nations of the Grand River community and Cayuga language speakers for generations to come, as the graduates will leave the program being able to speak in Cayuga for most situations encountered in day-to-day life.

These speakers will also be involved in the documentation process of the remaining first language Cayuga speakers, of which there are less than forty.

Ultimately, the project is meant to be another push towards creating speakers with high proficiency in Cayuga, so that it can be transferred to the next generation of language learners, speakers and creators.