Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne
Wilma Mankiller said, “Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future.” Mohawk parents exercised their authority and started the Akwesasne Freedom School in 1979. The school has been teaching their language, history, and culture to students from kindergarten to eighth grade since that time. Sandra Fox has dedicated many years to the school, seeing it as a place to uplift the language and traditional lifeways—a place to understand what it means to be onkwehonewe, original people. Sandra is Bear Clan and a Peoples Faith Keeper of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. In this role she is a caretaker of the ceremonies. She explains that “this is an important responsibility not only for humans but for all of creation.”
Sandra contemplates the everyday lives of young people and desires to share with them what it means to be a family and love unconditionally. She considers this the most valued knowledge she can pass on and believes in its power to sustain you. Certainly, it has sustained Sandra in her role as a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. She shares these teachings through story and conversation in daily tasks like chopping wood, gathering medicines, and working in the garden. Sandra gives what is most valuable to her—her time.
Being onkwehonewe and a Faith Keeper is a way of life. In this way, Sandra has modeled to children what that means. She has shared a foundational way of living for them in the most authentic way, through her own daily living. These are perhaps the most important life lessons, those we witness daily through the actions of others. Her desire now is to share this outside her family circle with the community of young people, building bridges between generations. She sees that the generational connections are not as strong as when she grew up. Sandra believes the younger generations will be paving a way for the future. She wants to offer the guidance of elders to ensure their path is strong and healthy.