METROFOCUS: JANUARY 13, 2020

Are we on the brink of another war in the Middle East? Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof examines the U.S.-Iran confrontation. A Mohawk tribe in upstate New York is fighting to reclaim its roots by taking control of its own education.

Aired on January 13, 2020.

TRANSCRIPT

> TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS,' STANDOFF WITH IRAN.

AFTER THE U.S. KILLING A MAJOR GENERAL QASSEM SOLEIMANI, WIDELY CONSIDERED THE SECOND MOST POWERFUL MAN IN IRAN AND THAT COUNTRY'S MISSILE ATTACKS ON IRAQI BASES IN RETALIATION, ARE WE STILL ON THE BRINK OF ANOTHER HOT WAR THIS THE MIDDLE EAST?

PULITZER PRIZE WINNING 'NEW YORK TIMES' COLUMNIST JOINS US TO DISCUSS WHERE THINGS STAND IN THIS LATEST CONFRONTATION BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN AND WHERE THAT CONFLICT IS LIKELY TO TAKE US.

> THEN FOR OVER 100 YEARS, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FORCED GENERATIONS OF NATIVE AMERICAN CHILDREN INTO ENGLISH ONLY BOARDING SCHOOLS.

THE PROCESS PUSHED THE MAJORITY OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES TO THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION.

BUT A MOHAWK TRIBE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK HAS BEEN FIGHTING TO RECLAIM ITS ROOTS BY TAKING CONTROL OF ITS OWN EDUCATION.

TONIGHT WE'LL TAKE YOU INSIDE THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL.

THOSE STORIES AND MORE AS 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M RAFAEL PI ROMAN.

PULITZER PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR NICHOLAS KRISTOF HAS WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY ABOUT IRAN AND HAS VISITED THE COUNTRY A NUMBER OF TIMES.

IN JUNE OF LAST YEAR, KRISTOF WARNED THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP AND IRAN MIGHT BE IN A COLLISION COURSE, AND THAT IT COULD GET SCARIER.

WELL, HE WAS RIGHT.

IT HAS.

THE HOSTILITIES BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN ESCALATED TO AN UNPRECEDENTED LEVEL AFTER A SERIES OF IRANIAN PROVOCATIONS LED TO THE TARGETED KILLING OF IRANIAN MAJOR GENERAL QASSEM SOLEIMANI, WIDELY CONSIDERED THE SECOND MOST POWERFUL MAN IN IRAN.

GIVEN THOSE EVENTS, THE CONSEQUENT SHELLING OF IRAQ CAN I MILITARY BASES AND THE PRESIDENT'S RESPONSE TO THAT MISSILE ATTACK, WE HAVE INVITED KRISTOF BACK ON THE PROGRAM TO HIS HIS TAKE ON THE STATE OF THE LATEST CONFLICT.

WELCOME BACK TO THE PROGRAM.

GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

SO WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE CONFLICT?

IT LOOKS AS IF WE MAY HAVE FOR THE MOMENT AVOIDED A ALL-OUT SHOOTING WAR BETWEEN THE IRAN AND U.S., WHICH WAS A REAL RISK IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE KILLING OF GENERAL SOLEIMANI, BUT WE HAVEN'T SOLVED THE UNDERLYING ISSUES, AND I WORRY ABOUT TWO THINGS IN PARTICULAR THAT I THINK SET US UP FOR CONFRONTATION DOWN THE ROAD.

ONE IS THAT I THINK IT'S QUITE LIKELY THAT IRAN WILL RETALIATE IN OTHER WAYS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES IN THE COMING MONTHS.

DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY SAID THIS WAS OUR RESPONSE?

THAT'S RIGHT.

I THINK THIS WAS THE OFFICIAL FORMAL RESPONSE THAT HAS THEIR NAME ATTACHED TO IT.

AND I THINK THAT THERE WILL BE OTHER RESPONSES THAT WILL HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY, WHICH IRAN HAS TENDED TO DO IN THE PAST.

SO THIS MAY MEAN BLOWING UP OIL TANKERS IN THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ.

IT MAY BE MORE CYBER ATTACKS.

IT MAY BE A TRUCK EXPLOSION AT A U.S. FACILITY CLAIMED BY SOME GROUP THAT NOBODY HAS HEARD OF.

BUT THINGS THAT PEOPLE WILL SUSPECT THAT IRAN WAS PROBABLY RESPONSIBLE BUT WON'T BE ENTIRELY SURE.

AND THERE WILL BE THEN PRESSURE ON THE U.S. TO RESPOND.

AND THE OTHER IS THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PRODUCTION.

AND IN A SENSE, THAT IS THE UNDERLYING CRISIS.

THAT IS THE DRIVER OF THESE ISSUES HERE.

PRESIDENT TRUMP WITHDREW FROM THE NUCLEAR DEAL, IMPOSED MORE SANCTIONS WITH THE IDEA THAT MAXIMUM PRESSURE WOULD BRING IRAN BACK TO THE TABLE.

INSTEAD, IT HAS LED IRAN TO ENGAGE IN SERIOUS PROVOCATIONS AND THE U.S. INITIALLY PERHAPS UNDERRESPONDED TO THEM.

I BELIEVE IT IS LATELY BEEN OVERRESPONDING IN WAYS THAT ARE NOT GOING TO LEAD IRAN TO RETURN TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE, BUT MAY WELL LEAD TO IT STRIKE OUT AND CERTAINLY ARE LEADING IT BACK TOWARD A NUCLEAR WEAPON.

LET'S TALK THAN IN A MOMENT.

BUT, YOU KNOW, SOME CONSERVATIVE PUNDITS AND CONSERVATIVE POLITICIANS WHO SUPPORTED THE KILLING, WHO SUPPORT THE KILLING OF GENERAL SOLEIMANI WOULD SAY THAT IF IN FACT THE IRANIANS DO THESE EVENTS, THESE ACTS, AS YOU SUGGEST THROUGH PROXIES MOSTLY, THEN WHAT'S NEW WITH THAT?

THAT'S PAR FOR THE COURSE.

SO THEREFORE, WHAT JUST HAPPENED WAS A BIG WIN FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP AND FOR THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE THEY KILLED THE SECOND MOST POWERFUL MAN IN IRAN WHO GENERAL PETRAEUS SAID WAS MUCH MORE A SIGNIFICANT EVENT THAN HAVING KILLED BAGHDADI.

AND IN RETURN WE GOT THOSE MISSILES WHERE NOBODY WAS KILLED.

GOOD TRADE-OFF.

SO LET ME PUSH BACK TO THAT.

FIRST OF ALL I SAY THAT AFTER THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL IN 2015, THEN IN FACT THINGS WERE REASONABLY STABLE.

AND SO IRAN, FOR EXAMPLE, BRIEFLY TOOK A U.S. SHIP IN THE GULF AND QUICKLY RETURNED IT.

IN FACT IRAN WAS NOT ENGAGING IN THOSE PROVOCATIONS IN THAT PERIOD.

SO IT IS TRUE THAT GENERAL SOLEIMANI WAS A VERY BAD ACTOR WHO HAD BLOOD ON HIS HANDS.

THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD WITH BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS.

I MEAN KIM JONG-UN IS ABOUT AS RUTHLESS A TYRANT AS ONE COULD THINK OF, AND PRESIDENT TRUMP DID NOT PUT HIM IN A HEADLOCK AND TRY TO DRAG HIM INTO A JAIL CELL.

AND IN FACT I THINK ONE OF THE LESSONS OF THE U.S. TREATMENT OF NORTH KOREA VERSUS IRAN THAT IS GOING OUT IS THAT IF YOU ACTUALLY ALREADY HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON, THEN WE WILL TREAT YOU WITH SOME RESPECT.

IF YOU DON'T, THEN YOU'RE VULNERABLE.

MAYBE THE OTHER LESSON IS LET'S NOT HAVE TWO STATES THAT HAVE NUCLEAR POWER.

WE SHOULDN'T.

I THINK THAT IS ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, AND I THINK THAT IRAN IS RECKLESS WITHOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

I WOULD NOT WANT IT TO GET THEM.

THAT'S WHY THE NUCLEAR DEAL IN 2015 WAS SO IMPORTANT, THAT IT ACTUALLY KEPT IRAN ABOUT 15 YEARS FROM ACTUALLY GETTING A NUCLEAR WEAPON, AND VERIFIABLY THEY HAVE INSPECTORS IN PLACE.

NOBODY WAS ACCUSING OF CHEATING IN A SIGNIFICANT WAY.

PRESIDENT TRUMP HAD A LEGITIMATE CONCERN.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER 15 YEARS.

THOSE ARE VERY VALID CONCERNS.

BUT THE SOLUTION I THINK WAS NOT TO AGGRAVATE THE DEAL AND NOW WE'RE A FEW MONTHS FROM THAT.

PART OF THAT DEAL WAS GIVING IRAN $150 BILLION.

IT WAS THEIR MONEY, BUT THEY DIDN'T VISIT.

WE HAD IT.

WITH PLUS $1.8 BILLION IN CASH WHICH THE PRESIDENT IN HIS SPEECH AFTER THE MISSILE ATTACKS SAID IT WAS THAT MONEY THAT BOUGHT THOSE MISSILES, AND IT WAS THE SUBSERVIENCE MANIFESTED BY THE DEAL THAT THE UNITED STATES AND THE WEST MADE THAT EMBOLDENED IRAN TO GO OUT AND DO PROVOCATIONS.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

SO, YOU KNOW, ALL IN ALL, I THINK IT'S JUST AS WELL THAT THE REGIME NOT HAVE MORE MONEY, AND THE -- I SUSPECT SOME OF THE MONEY DID GO TOWARD MISSILES AND OTHER THINGS.

HOWEVER, THAT WAS PART OF THE COST OF GETTING A DEAL IN WHICH IRAN GAVE UP MORE THAN 90% OF ITS NUCLEAR FUEL IN WHICH IT WAS 15 YEARS FROM HAVING NUCLEAR WEAPON.

I THINK THAT IT WOULD BE HARD TO FIND ANYBODY WHO THOUGHT THAT WE ARE BETTER NOW WITH IRAN SPINNING THE CENTRIFUGES AND AMASSING NUCLEAR FUEL THAN WE WERE A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WITH THOSE CENTRIFUGES STOPPED.

AND PART OF THE COST OF THAT IS RETURNING SOME OF IRAN'S OWN MONEY, WHICH WE HAD TO DO AT SOME POINT, THEN I THINK THAT'S A DEBATE WORTH DISCUSSING.

BUT IT SEEMS TO ME THAT ON BALANCE, IT WAS BETTER DEAL.

BUT, YOU KNOW, SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT THE STEPS THAT PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS TAKEN POINT TO THE WAY THAT IRAN RESPONDED.

MISSILES THAT HIT NO ONE.

AND BY SOME LUCK, INFORMATION GETTING TO THE UNITED STATES THREE HOURS BEFORE THE ATTACKS.

RIGHT.

THEY SAY THIS IS NO ACCIDENT.

THEY SAY THAT THE IRANIANS DID NOT WANT TO CAUSE CASUALTIES BECAUSE THEY DON'T WANT A WAR.

AND THAT INDICATES THAT WHEN YOU FIGHT THEM BACK, THEY BACK OFF.

AND THE PRESIDENT HAS SAID CLEARLY THAT IF AMERICANS ARE KILLED, HE'LL RESPOND, AND HE DID, AND THAT IF THEY DEVELOP NUCLEAR -- IF THEY GET CLOSE TO DEVELOPING NUCLEAR ARMS, THEY'LL RESPOND, AND THEY DID.

IT LOOKS LIKE THE LEADERSHIP IN IRAN IS PAYING ATTENTION.

ISN'T THAT A GOOD THING?

I THINK IT IS VERY TRUE THAT IRAN'S LEADERS ARE TRYING TO CALIBRATE THEIR RESPONSE, AND THAT THEY DON'T WANT AN ALL-OUT CH SHOOTING WAR.

IRAN AND THE U.S. ARE TO SOME DEGREE PLAY TO THEIR DOMESTIC BASE.

SO LET'S LOOK AT KIND OF WHERE THINGS STAND AFTER THE KILLING OF GENERAL SOLEIMANI AND WHAT WE GAINED AND WHAT WE LOST.

SO WE DID REMOVE A PARTICULARLY ADEPT AND STRATEGICALLY ON THE IRANIAN SIDE WHO WAS PROMPTLY REPLACED.

THAT PROBABLY DID HELP REESTABLISH DETERRENTS, WHICH ONE OF THE PROBLEMS IS IRAN BECAME MORE PROVOCATIVE LAST MAY, AND WE DIDN'T REALLY RESPOND TO A SERIES OF PROVOCATIONS.

WE PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE DONE -- TAKEN SOME STEPS TO ESTABLISH THAT DETERRENT.

NOW WE HAVE REESTABLISHED THAT DETERRENCE, BUT AT WHAT COST?

I THINK IT'S QUITE LIKELY THAT WE WILL END UP PUSHED ENTIRELY OR MOSTLY OUT OF IRAQ, GIVING -- WHICH IS REALLY SOMETHING THAT GENERAL SOLEIMANI HAD STRIVED FOR DURING HIS LIFE.

AS YOU WROTE IN THE PIECE, HE IS GOING TO GET IN DEATH WHAT HE COULDN'T GET IN LIFE.

EXACTLY.

AND THAT IS A STRATEGIC GAIN FOR IRAN.

WITHOUT A U.S. PRESENCE IN IRAQ, IT WILL BE A LOT HARDER TO SUSTAIN THE U.S. PRESENCE IN SYRIA.

WE MAY HAVE TO PULL OUT THOSE THOUSAND ODD TROOPS WHICH WILL BE ANOTHER GAIN FOR IRAN.

IN THE COURSE OF THIS, WE'VE HAD TO SUSPEND OUR EFFORT AGAINST ISIS, WHICH GIVES IT A CHANCE TO REGROUP.

AS MOST PEOPLE PERHAPS DON'T KNOW, THIS IS A WAR THAT WHERE THE UNITED STATES AND IRAN WERE UNFRIENDLY ALLIES, BUT WERE ALLIES AGAINST ISIS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

THAT'S RIGHT.

THERE ARE TRADE-OFFS.

AND I DO THINK THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR TAKING OUT A BAD GUY WITH BLOOD ON HIS HANDS WHERE IT CAN BE DONE.

I THINK THERE IS SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR ESTABLISHING DETERRENTS.

IN THIS CASE, I LOOK AT THE TRADE-OFFS, AND I DON'T THINK THAT IT WAS WORTH IT, AND I THINK THE COSTS ARE MUCH GREATER THAN THE GAINS, AND I'D ALSO SAY THAT WE HAVEN'T EXPERIENCED THE COSTS YET.

I THINK THAT THERE WILL BE MORE THINGS BLOWN UP.

CLOSER TO, THAT WE HAVE ABOUT 15 SECONDS, 20 SECONDS LEFT.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, NEXT FEW MONTHS?

I DON'T KNOW IF IT WILL BE IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.

I THINK IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A SERIES OF ESCALATING THREATS AND CRISES OVER THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM, AND I THINK WE WILL HAVE SOME MYSTERIOUS EXPLOSIONS OR INCIDENTS THAT ARE PROBABLY -- THAT ARE GENERALLY ATTRIBUTED TO IRAN BUT WITHOUT QUITE CERTAINTY.

OKAY.

I WISH I HAD BETTER -- MORE OPTIMISTIC PREDICTIONS.

WE'LL SEE IF THAT HAPPENS.

WE'LL BRING YOU BACK.

HOPEFULLY WHEN SOMETHING LIKE THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

I HOPE SO.

OKAY, THNICK, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

GOOD TOBY WITH YOU.

> IN NOVEMBER, THE NATION CELEBRATES NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE.

IN A GROUNDBREAKING FOUR-PART MINISERIES CALLED 'NATIVE AMERICA,' PBS RECENTLY PRESENTED A LOOK AT OUR NATION'S FIRST INHABITANTS, GOING BACK 15,000 YEARS, EXPLORING NOT ONLY THEIR ROOTS AND THEIR CULTURE, BUT ALSO THEIR TRIUMPHS AND THE TRAGEDY THAT ULTIMATELY LED TO THE TRAIL OF TEARS.

IT ALSO INCLUDED THEIR CURRENT ENDEAVORS TO HOLD ON TO AND TO REDISCOVER THEIR GLORIOUS PAST.

TONIGHT WE GO EVEN DEEPER INTO ONE COMMUNITY THAT WAS ONCE FORCIBLY SEPARATED FROM ITS IDENTITY BY THE SYSTEMIC DESTRUCTIONS OF THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE BY SETTLERS AND MISSIONARIES.

THE MOHAWK ARE ONE OF THE FIRST NATIONS TO INHABIT WHAT WE NOW CALL NEW YORK, AND THEY'RE RECLAIMING THEIR CULTURE THROUGH THE POWER OF THEIR NATIVING ON THE.

JENNA FLANAGAN HAS THE STORY.

LANGUAGE.

IT'S DEFINED AS A METHOD OF COMMUNICATION USED BY A COUNTRY OR COMMUNITY.

SOMETIMES WRITTEN BUT ALWAYS SPOKEN, THE COMMONALITY BONDS INDIVIDUALS WITHIN A GROUP AND INFORMS ITS OVERALL CULTURE.

AS OF TODAY, THERE ARE ROUGHLY 6,500 LANGUAGES SPOKEN WORLDWIDE WITH NEARLY 30% HAVING FEWER THAN A THOUSAND NATIVE SPEAKERS, PUTTING THEM IN A VERY REAL DANGER OF GOING EXTINCT.

SO HOW DOES A COMMUNITY ENSURE THAT THEIR LANGUAGE LIVES ON IN FUTURE GENERATIONS?

YOU START WITH THE CHILDREN.

THE LANGUAGE GIVES US OUR IDENTITY.

IT TEACHES US THE CULTURE.

IT TEACHES US HOW TO BE.

IT TEACHES US HOW TO BE GRATEFUL.

AND WITHOUT THAT, WHO ARE WE?

THAT'S ELVIRA SERGEANT, AN ELDER MEMBER OF THE AKWESASNE MOHAWK NATION, WHICH LIES AT THE NORTHERN BORDER OF NEW YORK STATE.

THE MOHAWK ARE WORKING HARD TO NOT ONLY MAINTAIN THEIR LANGUAGE, BUT ENSURE IT HAS A FUTURE WITH ITS LANGUAGE IMMERSION SCHOOL.

IT'S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LEARNING EXPERIENCE.

I MEAN, OVER TIME WE HAD TO EVOLVE.

THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL WAS FOUNDED IN 1979 AFTER DECADES OF MOHAWK CHILDREN BEING FORCIBLY REMOVED FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND NATIVE LANDS TO ATTEND BOARDING SCHOOLS RUN BY PRIESTS WHERE ENGLISH WAS MANDATORY AND THE MOHAWK LANGUAGE FORBIDDEN, EFFECTIVELY PUTTING UP A BARRIER BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND THEIR CULTURE.

FREEDOM SCHOOL LEVEL 4 TEACHER, KNOWN BY HIS ENGLISH NAME LEVI HEARN EXPLAINS THE LONG-TERM CULTURAL EFFECT.

MOST OF THE FAMILIES IN THIS COMMUNITY AREN'T TRADITIONAL BECAUSE OF WHAT HAD HAPPENED WITH BOARDING SCHOOLS AND DIFFERENT TYPES OF ASSIMILATION WITH THE JESUITS, EVEN IN THE 16, 1700st.

ELVIRA SAYS SHE REMEMBERS HER FAMILY STRUGGLING WITH THE SEPARATION.

MY SISTER ACTUALLY WENT TO RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL AND MY UNCLE.

AND THEY WOULD BE THERE ALL YEAR, COME HOME IF ONCE A YEAR, BUT WHAT I KNOW WITH THAT IS THAT THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE.

THEY WERE PUNISHED.

MY SISTER DOESN'T KNOW THE CULTURE AT ALL.

SHE STILL KNOWS THE LANGUAGE.

SHE GETS STUCK.

SO IT HAS HAD A LASTING IMPACT.

LIKE MAYBE PEOPLE MY AGE AND MAYBE A LITTLE OLDER, WE DIDN'T HAVE THAT NURTURING -- NURTURING FROM OUR PARENTS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO NURTURE US.

OR SHOW US LOVE.

WE KNEW THEY LOVED US, BUT OH, GOD.

BUT IT WAS HARD FOR THEM TO SHOW US.

THE BOARDING SCHOOL SEPARATIONS LEFT A LASTING IMPACT ON THE FAMILY.

HOWEVER, ELVIRA WAS TOO YOUNG TO BE TAKEN TO BOARDING SCHOOL, SO SHE LEARNED TO SPEAK MOHAWK AT HOME.

THAT'S ALL I HEARD GROWING UP.

BUT EVENTUALLY EVEN THAT PART GOT LOST.

AND IT'S THAT SAME NATURAL WAY THAT GUIDES THE FREEDOM SCHOOL.

WE ACTUALLY STARTED THE AGE OF 1 WHERE THEY CAN GO INTO OUR LANGUAGE BECAUSE A LONG TIME AGO, THIS WAS THE FIRST LANGUAGE.

NOT ALL PARENTS CAN SPEAK THE LANGUAGE.

SO THEY'RE NOT HEARING IT UNTIL THEY ENTER SCHOOL.

AND THE FOCUS IS ON DEVELOPING CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS OVER COMPULSORY.

I THINK THEY REALLY SHOULD TRY TO LEARN THAT WITH ANOTHER SPEAKER, WITH AN ELDER.

I'M AFRAID WITH IT BEING IN A CLASSROOM ALL THE TIME THAT IT'S GOING TO BECOME A CLASSROOM LANGUAGE.

AND I DON'T WANT TO SEE THAT HAPPEN.

IT'S JUST BEFORE 8:00 A.M. AT THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL, AND THE KIDS ARE ALREADY GETTING DROPPED OFF FOR THE DAY.

THE SCHOOL ENCOMPASSES A SMALL CAMPUS OF THREE BUILDINGS, BUT IT'S NOT STRUCTURED LIKE AN AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOL.

THE KIDS AREN'T REGULATED BY GRADE, BUT RATHER THEIR MOHAWK LANGUAGE ABILITY LEVEL.

SO A CHILD AT LEVEL 2 ISN'T NECESSARILY A SECOND GRADER, BUT RATHER A KID WHOSE CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS ARE STILL DEVELOPING, AND THAT CHILD CAN BE ANY AGE.

.

MY NAME IS KAHNAGOHE.

CAN YOU SAY IT?

KAHNAGOHE.

YES.

SHE IS NOT ONLY PROFICIENT, SHE IS THE LEVEL 8 LANGUAGE TEACHER AND BREAKS DOWN MOHAWK PRONUNCIATION IN A WAY MY ENGLISH ONLY BRAIN CAN PROCESS.

KAH -- HER AND THIS IS -- COMES FROM THE WORD GASANA, WHICH MEANS A NAME.

AND THIS GOHE IS A JOURNEY.

SHE WHO RETRIEVES NAMES.

THAT IS SO AMAZING THAT THAT'S YOUR NAME GIVEN WHAT YOU TEACH.

AND THAT'S ONE OF THE TENETS OF THE MOHAWK WAY OR CULTURE.

EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS THEIR OWN NAME, JUST ONE THAT'S UNIQUE TO THEMSELVES.

CLAN MOTHERS OF THE LONG HOUSE ARE IN CHARGE OF PICKING NAMES, AND THERE ARE NO REPEATS, JUNIORS, OR SENIORS.

AS SHE CONTINUES EXPLAINING THE ON THE PHONETICS TO ME, SHE EXPLAINS HOW SPEAKERS EXPLAIN THE MODERN DAY.

OUR LANGUAGE IS DESCRIPTIVE.

THE WAY WE HAVE ADAPTED TO ALL THESE NEW WORDS IS JUST TO DESCRIBE WHAT IS GOING ON.

SO LIKE IF YOU WERE A CAMERA PERSON, WE'D SAY OH, HE IS A FILMER.

HOW YOU THEN DESCRIBE WHAT A JOURNALIST DOES?

LIKE IF I WERE TO DESCRIBE MYSELF IN THE MOHAWK LANGUAGE, HOW -- HOW WOULD I CALL MYSELF?

I'M TRYING TO THINK YEGALANUS.

SHE TELLS STORIES.

OH, I LOVE THAT.

WAIT, HOW I DO I SPELL THAT?

I CAN SPELL IT ON THE BOARD.

OH, PLEASE DO.

THIS YE IS PRONOUN FOR HER.

AND THIS DO IS THE TELLING OF AND THIS IS HABITUAL.

SO SHE IS A TELLER.

SHE IS A STORYTELLER.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THAT.

WORKING WITH LONG HOUSE TRADITIONS, THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL HAS ITS OWN SET OF STANDARDS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR TEACHERS.

THEY AREN'T LOOKING FOR TRADITIONAL AMERICAN CERTIFICATES OR DEGREES, BUT RATHER A MEMBERSHIP WITHIN THE NATION, FLUENCY IN THE MOHAWK CULTURE AND LANGUAGE, AND ABOVE ALL, A PASSION FOR IMPARTING THOSE TRADITIONS ON TO THE NEXT GENERATION.

THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL, THE KIDS ARE ENCOURAGED TO HELP ONE ANOTHER IN THEIR LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT, AND IN SOME CLASSROOMS, ABSOLUTELY NO ENGLISH IS SPOKEN AT ALL.

SO TO FURTHER MY MEAGER MOHAWK LANGUAGE SKILLS, I TURN TO SOME OF THE SCHOOL'S MOST ENTHUSIASTIC TEACHERS, THE 7 AND 8-YEAR-OLDS OF LEVEL 2.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

HI!

SEGO?

IS THAT HOW YOU SAY IT?

ONA.

ONA!

AND WHAT DOES ONA MEAN?

BYE.

SO WHEN I LEAVE TODAY, I'M GOING TO SAY ONA TO ALL OF YOU GUYS.

AS SHE IS KNOWN BY HER ENGLISH NAME, TARA SKITTERS IS THE SCHOOL'S OFFICE MANAGER.

SHE HANDLES ADMISSIONS, BUDGETING, HIRING, AND ENSURING THE SCHOOL MEETS ITS OVERALL MISSION, AND PART OF THAT IS CREATING A FAMILIAL ATMOSPHERE FOR THE KIDS.

SO IT'S A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE WHO COME HERE.

THE FAMILIES THAT WANT THEIR KIDS HERE, A LOT OF THEM ARE TRADITIONAL WHO, YOU KNOW, FOLLOW THE LONG HOUSE AND THE LONG HOUSE TRADITIONS.

I THINK OUR OVERALL VALUES ARE MORE OF THE CONCENTRATION, RESPECT, AND TAKING CARE OF THE EARTH.

AND BEING KIND TO ONE ANOTHER.

42 FAMILIES COMPRISING OF 71 KIDS CURRENTLY ATTEND THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL.

AND TO HELP IMMERSE THEM INTO THE CULTURE OF THE LONG HOUSE TRADITIONS, EACH DAY STARTS WITH A COMMUNITY SOCIAL.

TEACHERS AND STUDENTS GATHER IN ONE OF THE LARGER CLASSROOMS AND BEGIN WITH LOOSELY TRANSLATED THE BUSINESS BEFORE ALL ELSE.

THANKS IS GIVEN TO THE CREATOR FOR EVERYTHING.

IT'S AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE LONG HOUSE TRADITION, WHICH FOCUSES ON BEING GRATEFUL FOR THE GIFTS THE EARTH GIVES AND HOW THEY AID PEOPLE IN LIFE.

THEY PARTICIPATE IN SEVERAL MORNING SONGS.

SONGS ABOUT HUNTING OR GATHERING ARE PERFORMED IN CEREMONIAL WAY.

THESE ARE OPEN EVENTS THAT ANYONE CAN ATTEND, BUT FOR THE MOHAWK, SACRED CEREMONIES ARE CLOSED TO NON-NATION MEMBER, EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM SCHOOL HAS LESS THAN 100 KIDS ENROLLED, THE AKWESASNE MOHAWK COMMUNITY IS 16,000 STRONG, AND THE RESERVATION OVERLAPS THE U.S./CANADIAN BORDER.

SO KIDS WHO LIVE ON THE NEW YORK SIDE ALSO HAVE FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN THE ONTARIO AND QUEBEC PROVINCES.

THE FREEDOM SCHOOL HAS STUDENTS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER, BUT ACCORDING TO LEVEL 4 TEACHER, THAT'S OUR BORDER, NOT THEIRS.

WHEN THEY'RE HERE, THEY TALK ABOUT BEING IN THE AMERICAN OR CANADIAN SIDE, BECAUSE WE OURSELVES DON'T FEEL AS WE'RE A PART OF THE AMERICAN OR CANADIAN GOVERNMENT.

WE FEEL THAT WE'RE A SOVEREIGN NATION STILL.

TARA SAYS ONE OF THE BIGGEST WORRIES THAT PARENTS HAVE IS THAT ALL THIS MOHAWK IMMERSION WILL LIMIT THEIR CHILD'S ABILITY TO LEARN ENGLISH AND MATRICULATE INTO ONE OF THE NEARBY PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS.

THE REALITY IS ENGLISH IS EVERYWHERE.

THEY'RE GOING TO LEARN IT.

I TELL PARENTS ALL THE TIME DON'T STRESS ABOUT IT.

IF YOUR CHILD IS READY TO LEARN ENGLISH, TEACH THEM AT HOME.

DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.

THEY'LL GET IT.

BUT ONCE THEY LEAVE HERE, WHERE ARE THEY GOING TO LEARN THE MOHAWK LANGUAGE?

HOWEVER, ONCE THE FREEDOM SCHOOL KIDS START ATTENDING PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS, COMMUNITY LONG HOUSE ELDER ELVIRA SAYS IT'S A BIT OF A CULTURE SHOCK.

WE HEAR BACK FROM THE STUDENTS, OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE THE WAY THEY TALK TO THEIR TEACHERS.

OR OUR STUDENTS, THEY FIND THEM QUIET, BUT IT'S BECAUSE THEY'RE RESPECTFUL.

AND TARA AGREES.

SHE SAYS IT'S NOT UNCOMMON FOR HER TO GET CALLS FROM FORMER STUDENTS ON BREAK, ASKING IF THEY CAN COME BACK AND HELP FOR THE WEEK.

BUT TO TRULY EXPAND THE SCHOOL'S CAPACITY, TARA SAYS THEY'RE HOPING TO BUILD A NEW STRUCTURE THAT CAN HOUSE EVERYBODY.

HAVING A NEW BUILDING WOULD REALLY HELP US ALL TO BE IN ONE BUILDING SO THERE IS NOBODY IS SEGREGATED FROM ANYBODY ELSE.

IT'S GOOD FOR THOSE YOUNGER KIDS TO SEE THE OLDER KIDS USING THE LANGUAGE, THE OLDER KIDS DOING THINGS BECAUSE THAT GIVES THEM ROLE MODEL.

TO PAY FOR ALL OF THIS, THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL CHARGES A UNIQUE TUITION.

EITHER $500 PER STUDENT, OR A DONATED QUILT.

TARA SAYS EACH ONE CAN BRING IN A FEW THOUSAND DOLLARS, GENERATING ENOUGH TO FUND THE CURRENT SCHOOL.

FAMILIES CONTRIBUTE HAND-MADE QUILTS BASED ON THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN THEY HAVE ENROLLED, AND SOME QUILTS ARE EVEN DONATED BY PROFESSIONALS.

THIS IS A QUILT DONE BY THE PEACEMAKERS OF NEW PALTZ, NEW YORK.

THEY'RE ALWAYS VERY UNIQUE, AND PEOPLE COME HERE JUST TO BID ON THESE, BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR I WANT TO SAY 20-SOMETHING YEARS NOW.

IN ALL, TARA SAYS THE MISSION OF THE AKWESASNE FREEDOM SCHOOL IS TO ENSURE THE SUCCESSFUL OF THE MOHAWK CULTURE AND LANGUAGE.

YOU KNOW, I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT WE'RE NOT EXTINCT.

PEOPLE THINK THAT AN INDIAN IS A CERTAIN WAY OR THAT WE ARE ALL THE SAME.

AND WE'RE NOT.

SO THERE ARE SO MANY DIFFERENT NATIONS, DIFFERENT CLOTHES, DIFFERENT CULTURES, DIFFERENT SONGS.

EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

AND, YOU KNOW, WE HAVE TO WORK REALLY HARD TO MAINTAIN THOSE THINGS.

THERE ARE SO LITTLE OF US COMPARED TO OTHER POPULATIONS, BUT WE'RE HERE.

WE'RE DOING IT.

WE'RE GOING KEEP DOING IT.

NOT GOING NOWHERE.

WE HAVE KIDS WHO ARE LEARNING ALL THIS STUFF, AND THEY'RE GOING TO CARRY IT ON.

AND WE'RE JUST DOING OUR THING.

BIG HUG BEFORE I GO, EVERYBODY.

FOR 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY -- ♪

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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