Megan and Tsiehente's youth journal about Mohawk Identity!
An excerpt from the Girls Action publication Community Leadership in ACTION -- Indigenous Young Women – Speaking Our Truths: Building Our Strengths: The Making of Community Actions across Canada. In this excerpt we learn about Megan Whyte and Tsiehente Herne, the creators of the first ever youth journal about Mohawk identity. Theirs is but one of many inspiring community actions that took place across Canada in 2012.
Megan Whyte and Tsiehente Herne
I am Megan Kanerahtenha:wi Whyte, a 21 year old artist and art educator from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawake. I am entering my fourth year of the Art Education Specialization with a minor in Psychology at Concordia University. The purpose of my studies is to culminate a growing curriculum, consisting of multimedia visual art and exploratory media to address issues of Indigenous rights, cultural traditions, and hybrid identities.
Tsiehente Herne is currently an intern for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. She is 22 years old from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Growing up loving sports and being happy, she did a lot of community work in and around Akwesasne. She is a graduate of the Akwesasne Freedom School where she also works part-time today. Her first job was working at the Onontohken Treatment Center. She has worked with children and youth in different capacities including Youth Forums and daycare; she found she had a passion for teaching young children when she returned to Akwesasne Freedom School to teach Pre-K in the language and culture of the Mohawk people. She decided to pursue early childhood education as a career path and is now a graduate of Algonquin College with a diploma in Aboriginal Studies and Child and Youth Work. She looks forward to continuing to work with initiatives that support youth and community empowerment.
Megan and Tsiehente teamed up to make the OrigiNative Journal, the first ever youth journal about Mohawk Identity!
The question posed in the call out was
"What does Mohawk mean to you?”.
Megan as the Kahnawake representative, and Tsiehente as the Akwesasne representative, they worked together to start a journal in order to share the youth perspective in political, social and traditional issues. The purpose of this journal is to bridge the gap between generations and communities.
"The youth in both the Kahnawake and Askwesasne communities need a voice to speak our langauges, truths, and our strengths. We are all working to fight for the same rights and for the same dreams, so why not work together?" – Megan Whyte
We asked Megan...
What inspired you to apply to do a Community Action?
I was inspired to take on a Community Action because not many youth in my community do. The basis of this action began with a self-reflection—what does being part of a community mean? What does being part of a Mohawk community mean? In various conversations with the youth in Kahnawake, I quickly realized that the young people in the community had important knowledge and ideas to share with each other—but most of them did not have a venue to do so. We talk about giving youth the power to speak, yet we so readily forget that it takes courage to share our voices with the masses. In response, I wanted to create a forum for the youth to share their ideas with each other and the surrounding communities in a less confrontational approach than speaking. Through visual and written submissions, I wanted to create a collection of youth ideas on issues that matter between Akwesasne and Kahnawake—because our voice matters regardless of what language we speak.
What aspect of your Community Action are you most proud of?
I am proud of the variety of submissions that I received for the journal. The theme—“what does Mohawk mean to you?”— was broad enough to encompass the scope of people’s experiences, studies and beliefs. The contributors had much to share about what it meant to be part of the community and I am proud of every single one of them. I definitely see this journal as the beginning of something greater for our people, as many adults were interested in submitting. The journal is the first step to bridging our communities and our thoughts together. I believe that the journal is important documentation for all members of both communities to read and learn about the realities our youth face as future leaders.
Do you have any suggestions or tips for others who want to take action in their community?
- Make contact with all the social media in your community and talk about your action - most will take you on.
- Find supporters - doing the project on your own is difficult.
- Keep in contact with and update your participants -keep them involved in every step of the project.
What are your hopes and dreams for Indigenous communities?
I hope for all of our communities to one day be connected—we have a bigger fight to fight and we’ll be stronger if we learn to stand together. To achieve this goal, I believe we have to start at the foundation—our voices and our hearts. Through more venues like the journal, we can give power and resonance to all the types of voices that are found amongst our youth—musical, theatrical, verbal, written, visual etc. Together, we can make change.
We say “Community Action” and you say...
Youth independence and empowerment.
The above excerpt is from Community Leadership in ACTION -- Indigenous Young Women – Speaking Our Truths: Building Our Strengths: The Making of Community Actions across Canada, published in partnership with staff from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action Foundation. Read the whole report on community actions led by Indigenous young women across the country!
See all of the photos on the OrigiNative Journal's photostream