Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne
A bold, imaginative artist, truth seeker and onkwehonwe, Karakwahawi Thomas is Bear Clan born into the Kanien’keháka people of Ahkwesáhsne. She comes from the Ratinonhsòn:ni people that still carry and care for the original responsibilities as human beings in this world. Karakwahawi explains that her name was given at birth, meaning “she carries the light in her being.” She embraces the responsibility to carry light wherever she goes.
Karakwahawi was mentored by a particular elder who taught her the “old way” of looking at the natural world and doing ceremonies. She credits him for acknowledging and inspiring her fire for her people and their traditional ways of life.
When Karakwahawi went to University, she then realized that an institution is not where she belonged. She then was accepted into a two-year immersion program in Ahkwesahsne. She sees the language as a healer and a path to understanding the deep consciousness of life. She insightfully states, “Language is one of my oldest teachers.”
After finishing the language program, Karakwahawi spent time listening to people in the community, both elders and her own generation. She recognized the complexity of challenges and hopes in her community. She is a willing teacher of what she knows with the intent of creating “spaces of healing and knowledge transfer for the betterment of our future generations.” Karakwahawi is at home in the longhouse, but she knows people who do not attend. She understands the divide in the community and also why people are hesitant to show up. Whether that be lack of knowledge, people feeling judged, and anything in between. She always invites them to return, telling them she will pick them up, sit with them and explain what exactly is going on and why. This is a kind and beautiful way of enfranchising people who feel marginalized. It is a powerful example of being a light. There is a need for healing work everywhere, in communities and in the natural world.
Karakwahawi spends much of her time thinking of ways to address the wounds of the world, be they in people or on the land. She believes that the language and knowledge of her people have always held the answers. She is on a journey to learn as much as she can and to shine a light for others to join.