Culture and Language Revitalization

Restoring Culture, Healing Hearts: The Akwesasne Kateri Prayer Circle

The Akwesasne Kateri Prayer Circle of the Kana:takon district of Akwesasne in Quebec consists of members of the St. Regis Mission Akwesasne Altar and Rosary Society, and the Akwesasne Mohawk Choir.

The initiative’s main goal is to revitalize the Kanienkeha Mohawk Language and culture through prayers, hymns, and traditional music.

The project also includes Talking Circles and Healing activities for Elders, cultural productions, a “Sharing Native Spirituality” weekend for youth, and a monument honouring Akwesasronon survivors and those who did not make it home from residential schools. 

Funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund (IRF) supported the initiative through essential supplies and equipment, including a new Hammond organ and office furniture and supplies. The funding also covered the translation, production and printing of Mohawk hymnals. These resources facilitated the recitation of prayers and hymns in Kanienkeha during mass, reviving the language and traditional music within the parish.

Funding also covered costs for Talking Circles, healing services and cultural productions for community members of all ages, including presenter and facilitator costs, and the expenses associated with commissioning and installing the monument.

The Prayer Circle empowers parishioners through music with emphasis on the Kanienkeha (Mohawk) Language, building confidence through “ear and tongue training,” and facilitating natural language acquisition through singing. The parish plans to start an Akwesasronon youth choir to build on this success. 

Collaborating with the Native North American Traveling College (NNATC) and the Haudenosaunee Everlasting Academy of Learnings (HEAL) Lodge, the initiative offers cultural productions led by qualified Akwesasronon speakers, dancers, and singers, and Talking Circles and healing services that focused on holistic healing through traditional teachings. 

The monument memorializing survivors and those who did not make it home played an essential part in acknowledging the trauma of those who turned away from the church after their experiences in residential schools. It served to recognize the memory of those lost and nurture and welcome the survivors back to the Church.

About the Akwesasne Kateri Prayer Circle:

The Akwesasne Kateri Prayer Circle has over 40 years of cultural and language-related experience, including promoting Akwesasronon ideology through liturgy and Ministry within the Akwesasne First Nation — the third largest First Nation in Canada.

Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall