Mohawk Elder Tom Porter has been a nationally recognized figure in Indian Country since the 1960s when he co-founded the White Roots of Peace, a group of Iroquois Elders who toured the country sharing traditional teachings and encouraging Indians to embrace their respective Native traditions. Recognizing that Mohawk language and culture were dying out, he also co-founded the Akwesasne Freedom School for grades K-8, with a curriculum entirely in Mohawk. As an educator, Mr. Porter has taught a range of subjects at the Akwesasne Freedom School, Trent University, Akwesasne and the Tyiendinaga Reserve, and has worked as a cultural researcher and consultant for the North American Indian Traveling College. Mr. Porter is the author of the book Our Ways, a study of Iroquoian clan systems, published by the North American Indian Traveling College, and has received the Rothko Chapel Award from Trent University in Ontario, where he helped teach a course on Iroquoian Native studies. for commitment to truth and freedom. In 1993, after problems stemming from Mr. Porter’s opposition to gambling on the Akwesasne Reservation, he and a number of other Mohawks founded the community on a 400-acre property in the Mohawk Valley that was their original ancestral land, known as Kanatsiohareke, or “place of the clean pot”, with the goal of living self-sufficiently, in accordance with traditional Mohawk spiritual beliefs. They felt the key to their future was creating a new home where they could live in accordance with traditional Mohawk spiritual beliefs—free from the violence, casinos, bingo, drug and alcohol problems that plagued life at Akwesasne. They are learning to blend environmentally supportive energy and farming technologies with Native traditions. The community practices organic vegetable farming, operates a bed & breakfast, and runs a crafts store. Mr. Porter is committed to implementing programs that facilitate an understanding of Native American culture. He has created a college exchange program in which students perform community services at Kanatsiohareke during a one-week residency and discuss Native American history and philosophy with the community members at night. Students from Cornell University, S.U.N.Y. Albany, Sarah Lawrence College, Virginia Tech, The College of William and Mary, Emma Willard School in Troy, NY, and Fordham University have participated in this program. In 1998, Mr. Porter launched the first Iroquois Immersion Program, a language and lifeway restoration project for the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse). The Iroquois Immersion Program is the cornerstone of a larger project, the Carlisle Indian Boarding School In Reverse,  an institution designed to reverse assimilation and cultural genocide. Kanatsiohareke was founded on the principle that language restoration opens the door for culture and traditions to become living entities.  The residents of Kanatsiohareke  use Mohawk for everyday communication as well as ceremonial practices. Since July 1998, Mr. Porter has been bringing MOHAWK HEART SONG to New York City. The events include traditional social singing and dancing, beadwork and basketweaving, and "Journey Through the Iroquois Longhouse" — stories from the Iroquois’ rich oral heritage.

 

 

 
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