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Environmental Studies

Mohawk Kanien’keha: The people of Flint



“To refuse to see a language as a part of a process is to deny the idea that languages are in a constant state of change.” John Beatty Mohawk Morphology 1974 



The Mohawk Language 

 Mohawk was first written in the 18th century by the French.

A standardized written form of Mohawk was established in 1993. 





The Mohawk Alphabet  

A  E  H  I  K  N  O  R  S  T  W  Y

 and :. 

Learn more about the pronunciation of Mohawk.


The Iroquois Nations 

The Six Nations

Seneca, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora & Mohawk

   The Mohawk Indians have historically lived in New York State.  Their reservation currently resides in Northern New York State and is also in Quebec, Canada.





Iroquois Nations: People of the long house.



Mohawk currently has 3,540 speakers, 540 living in Canada and 3,000 in the United States. 


In comparison, the ethnic population in Canada is 24,000 and 30,000 in the United States.  


Most Mohawk speakers are elderly or school aged  children, although some adults are taking classes to learn Mohawk again.  



The Descent of Mohawk

Once the European settlers landed in North America, the Mohawk language was never the same.  

Throughout history there have been many conflicts between Native Americans and Settlers, this eventually resulted in Native Americans being forced to live on reservations.  The Mohawk language has been put under a lot of stress because their reservation resides in international territory.  Part of the reservation is in the United States where English is spoken.  The other half is in Quebec, Canada where the national language is French. 

 Since the 1970s Mohawk children learn in their native language at school.  However upon reaching high school they are sent to public schools based on where they live.  This can result in the children having to learn in English or in French.  Soon their native language is lost.

This plaque describing the Grand River in Ontario is written in English, Mohawk and French.This plaque describing the Grand River in Ontario is written in English, Mohawk and French.




The development of technology has been no help in preserving this endangered language.  Television has impacted Mowhawk greatly. However there are now a couple of television stations and a few radio stations that broadcast in Mohawk.


What is being done?

  1. Children are learning Mohawk in school at a young age.

  2. Adults are joining re immersion programs to relearn their native language.

  3. People are taking pride in their heritage and passing down traditions to younger generations.

  4. Rosetta Stone created a language learning program for Mohawk.

  5. A written form of Mohawk allows for things to be written down to preserve history and document the language in its current form.


 Preserving a language is not only saving a form of communication, it is saving a way of life, a culture and a perspective of the world that no other language has.


   A documentary has been made to show what it is like for a group of girls growing up in Mohawk culture in the 21st century. 


 Lacrosse is rooted deeply in Mohawk history and culture. 


Learn Mohawk!

 nia:wen = thank you

she:kon = a friendly greeting

 Kanien’keha = people of flint


Teiohonwa:ka ne’ni akhonwe:ia
Kon’tatieshon iohnekotatie
Wakkawehatie wakkawehatie.

English Translation:

The canoe is very fast. It is mine.
All day long I splash away.
I paddle along, I paddle along.

Learn the names of animals!

Want to know what Mohawk sounds like?



Read about more endangered languages!