MetroFocus: November 22, 2021

In honor of Native American Heritage month, we sit down with Edgar Villanueva, a globally recognized author, indigenous activist and expert on social justice reparations who recently launched #case4reparations, decolonizing wealth project’s multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative to support indigenous and black grantees working on systemic and policy efforts that return wealth- in the form of money or land- to impacted communities.

Jenna Flanagan travels to the Akwesasne Freedom School in upstate New York for a firsthand look at a Mohawk tribe’s fight to reclaim its roots by taking control of its children’s school- starting with an encouraged ban on speaking english, in favor of their native tongue.

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Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.

TRANSCRIPT

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

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

PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

THE JPB FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING.

TWOK A SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS.'

INDIGENOUS VOICES.

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

TONIGHT WE'LL BE TALKING TO TWO INDIVIDUALS WHO EACH, IN THEIR OWN WAY, ARE CREATING NEW NARRATIVES IN THE SPACE OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS AND IDENTITY.

FIRST, WE'LL TALK TO EDGAR VILLANUEVA, AN AUTHOR, WHOSE BOOK 'DECOLONIZATION WEALTH' HAS LAUNCHED A FRESH DISCUSSION ABOUT COLONIZATION AND FINANCE.

AND THEN TY DEFOE.

HE'S AN ARTIST, WHOSE WORK EXPLORES THE INTERSECTION OF CONIALISM, SOCIAL JUSTICE AND ENVIRONMENTALISM.

THIS IS PART OF OUR INITIATIVE, REPORTING ON POVERTY, JUSTICE, AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

EDGAR VILLANUEVA IS THE PRINCIPAL OF THE DECOLONIZING WEALTH PROJECT AND THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK 'DECOLONIZATION WEALTH, AND RESTORE BALANCE.'

EDGAR, WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

AN HONOR TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

SO FIRST, I JUST WANT TO START WITH THE NOTION, JUST THE TITLE ALONE.

WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF DECOLONIZATION.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN SPECIFICALLY IN YOUR VIEW?

WELL, TO UNDERSTAND DECOLONIZATION, YOU HAVE TO FIRST UNDERSTAND COLONIZATION, BECAUSE DECOLONIZATION IS OBVIOUSLY THE PROCESS OF UNDOING THAT.

OKAY.

AND WE'RE OFTEN KIND OF FAMILIAR WITH THE CONCEPT BECAUSE WE WERE ALL TAUGHT ABOUT COLONIZATION IN SCHOOL.

BUT THE PROBLEM IS, WE WERE TAUGHT A VERY ROMANTICIZED VERSION OF COLONIZATION AND WE ARE TAUGHT ABOUT COLONIZERS IN THE SENSE THAT THEY'RE HEROES, THAT THEY CAME TO THIS LAND AND DISCOVERED IT.

THE TRUTH IS COLONIZATION IS A VERY VIOLENT FORCE, AND I THINK OF IT AS A VIRUS ACTUALLY.

IT TOUCHED THE SHORES OF THIS COUNTRY 500 YEARS AGO, AND IT HAS CREATED SEPARATION, REVISION, TRAUMA.

IT CREATES THE US VERSUS THEM.

IT'S ABOUT EXTRACTING AND HOARDING RESOURCES, ENFORCING ANYTHING THAT IS OTHER TO BECOME LIKE IT.

AND THIS IS AN EXPERIENCE THAT WE HAVE BEEN SEEING IN THE U.S.

FOR 500 YEARS AND LONGER AROUND THE WORLD.

SO DECOLONIZATION IS A PROCESS OF SAYING HEY, THIS THING HAS BEEN HAPPENING.

IT HAS CAUSED ALL THIS TRAUMA.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO HEAL FROM THAT AND REPAIR FROM THAT?

THAT IS A MOUTHFUL.

I WONDER, BECAUSE I WANT YOU TO TALK ABOUT YOUR BOOK.

I AM WONDERING FOR AUDIENCES, HOW MUCH OF TALKING ABOUT YOUR BOOK INVOLVES HAVING TO SORT OF GIVE A SUCCINCT, AS YOU JUST DID, HISTORY LESSON?

SO MUCH.

I FEEL LIKE MOST OF MY DAYS ARE SPENT TEACHING HISTORY, I SHOULD GET A DEGREE IN AMERICAN HISTORY, BECAUSE I AM LITERALLY RIGHTING A WRONG AND HELPING FOLKS UNDERSTAND WHAT WE WERE TAUGHT IS NOT ACCURATE.

WHEN IT COMES TO THE SPACE OF MONEY, WHICH IS WHERE I WORK, LIKE OUR ENTIRE ECONOMIC SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY IS CONNECTED BACK TO HISTORY.

AND WHETHER YOU ARE THIS THE SPACE OF EDUCATION OR YOU ARE WORKING ON OTHER TYPES OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORY OF MONEY AND ITS CONNECTION TO COLONIZATION FIRST BEFORE WE CAN MOVE FORWARD WITH ANY SOLUTION.

EVERYTHING THAT IS BROKEN IN OUR COMMUNITIES TODAY HAS A ROOT BACK TO THE WAY THAT WEALTH HAS BEEN EXTRACTED AND THIS HISTORY OF COLONIZATION THAT WE MUST ALL UNDERSTAND.

SO THAT IS HOW I SPEND MY TIME.

THERE IS A WHOLE SECTION FOR COLONIZATION THAT IS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND BEFORE THEY GET INTO THE DEEPER END OF THE POOL.

TAKE US INTO THE DEEPER END OF THE POOL.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR BOOK.

SO, YOU KNOW, I GO TO THE TOPIC OF MONEY.

I'M A PERSON THAT'S WORKED IN THE SECTOR PHILANTHROPY FOR 20 YEARS, SO I'VE WORKED IN AND AROUND LOTS OF WEALTH AND I'M INDIGENOUS.

AT A CERTAIN POINT IN TIME, I REALIZED THERE WERE A LOT OF CONTRADICTIONS.

A PERSON WHO DID NOT COME FROM WEALTH THAT HAS THE ILLUSION OF CHARITY AND OF DOING GOOD.

I HAD TO REALLY COME TO TERMS WITH THAT, THOSE CONTRADICTIONS TO UNDERSTAND THAT EVEN IN THE SPACE OF CHARITY, THERE IS A HISTORY OF TRAUMA CONNECTED TO MONEY.

OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES WAS BUILT OFF OF THE SLAVE TRADE.

THE WEALTH THAT WE HAVE AS THE RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS SO LARGELY BECAUSE THAT WEALTH WAS EXTRACTED AND LAND WAS TAKEN FROM NATIVE AMERICANS.

AND SO AS WE -- IN PHILANTHROPY AND FINANCE ENJOY THIS BOUNTY OF WEALTH THAT WE SPRINKLE AROUND THE NONPROFITS, WE HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHERE THAT MONEY CAME FROM, AND THERE'S A HISTORY BEHIND IT.

THAT'S A BIG PART OF THE BOOK, HELPING PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH IN THIS COUNTRY HAS RESULTED IN TRAUMA.

AND IT IS UP TO US TO OWN THAT AND ADDRESS THAT.

NOW, DOES YOUR BOOK GET INTO -- SOMETIMES WHEN PEOPLE HEAR TRAUMA IS INVOLVED, THEY MIGHT SAY, BUT THOSE ARE PAST TRAUMAS.

THAT'S THE PAST THAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.

DOES YOUR BOOK TALK ABOUT HOW TRAUMA -- OR DOES IT ADDRESS TRAUMA THAT EXISTS IN THE HERE AND NOW?

ABSOLUTELY.

IT IS, YOU KNOW, WHEN I TALK ABOUT COLONIZATION, I DON'T JUST TALK ABOUT IT IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT.

COLONIZATION IS STILL HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY, WE ARE STILL SEPARATING CHILDREN FROM THEIR FAMILIES, RIGHT?

THE TRAUMA IS VERY RECENT.

WE ARE HEARING IN THE NEWS DAILY ABOUT THE BODIES OF CHILDREN BEING FOUND IN INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS THAT JUST CLOSED DOWN IN THE '80s AND IN THE '90s IN CANADA.

SO OF COURSE, FINDING THESE BODIES IS A VERY HARMFUL, TRAUMATIC PROCESS FOR MY COMMUNITY, WHO, YOU KNOW, WHOSE GRAND PARENTS WERE TAKEN AWAY AND SENT TO INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS THROUGH A PROCESS THAT WAS ORDAINED BY THE CHURCH AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

SO WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT JUST WHAT HAPPENED 500 YEARS AGO.

IN IS A VIOLENT FORCE OF EXTRACTION, DOMINATION AND OPPRESSION THAT IS VERY MUCH ALIVE AND WELL TODAY AND CONTINUES TO HARM US.

WE'VE GOTTEN SO ACCUSTOMED TO IT BECAUSE WE'VE ONLY KNOWN A SOCIETY THAT IS FULL OF EXTRACTION AND DOMINATION.

SO THIS IS WHY AT NIGHT WE SLEEP VERY SOUNDLY, WHILE DOWN THE STREET CHILDREN ARE IN CHANGES IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF CAMPS.

THIS HAPPENS ALL AROUND US.

SO IT IS REALLY ABOUT UNDERSTANDING, YES, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING FROM THE PAST THAT CAN INFORM OUR PRESENT, BUT THIS IS STILL VERY MUCH A VIOLENT ACT OF OPPRESSION IN FORCE RIGHT NOW THAT IS TEARING OUR COUNTRY APART.

WELL, THEN HOW DO YOU REIMAGINE THE SOCIETY, THE ONE THAT WE HAVE ONLY KNOWN, AND ADDRESS OR ATTEMPT TO PROVIDE, AS YOUR BOOK DESCRIBES, I WANT TO MAKE SURE I GET THIS RIGHT, BALANCE.

HOW DO YOU BEGIN TO CREATE THE IDEAS THAT COULD CREATE BALANCE IN OUR SOCIETY?

WELL, WHAT I'M ADVOCATING FOR IS RECONCILIATION.

AT A FEDERAL LEVEL, AT A GLOBAL LEVEL.

AND THEN ABSOLUTELY WE CAN TALK ABOUT TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION AT AN INSTITUTIONAL LEVEL.

WE AS A NATION, BEING AS WE ARE IN SO MANY WAYS, WE'RE THE ONLY NATION THAT HAS NOT HAD A PROCESS OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION TO ATONE FOR THE ATROCITIES COMMITTED AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

WE'VE NEVER HAD AN OFFICIAL APOLOGY FROM CONGRESS FOR SLAVERY.

WE NEVER HAD AN APOLOGY FOR EVERY SINGLE BROKEN TREATY THAT HAS HAPPENED.

AND SO WHAT WE DO IN THE U.S. IS WE WANT TO REWRITE HISTORY, PRETEND IT DIDN'T HAPPEN.

MORE THAN HALF OF THE STATES IN THIS COUNTRY DON'T MENTION NATIVE AMERICANS IN K-12 HISTORY.

SO WHAT WE ALL NEED TO DO IS ACTUALLY EDUCATE OURSELVES ABOUT WHAT HAS HAPPENED AND WHAT'S BROKEN IN THIS COUNTRY, AND ADVOCATE FOR A NATIONAL TRUTH AND HEALING PROCESS SO THAT WE CAN ONCE AND FOR ALL COME TOGETHER AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT HISTORY OF WHITE SUPREMACY HAS NOT ONLY HARMED MY COMMUNITY OR THE BLACK COMMUNITY, IT'S HARMING ALL OF US, AND IT'S IMPAIRING OUR ABILITY AS A SOCIETY TO MOVE FORWARD AND TO HAVE RACIAL HEALING.

I WANT TO PROBE A LITTLE DEEPER INTO THE IDEA OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION.

I BELIEVE IS HOW YOU PUT IT.

I WANT TO GO DEEPER INTO THAT.

BECAUSE AFTER THE SUMMER OF 2020, IN THE WAKE OF THE, YOU KNOW, BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT, WHICH I REALIZE IS CONNECTED TO, AND NOT ENTIRELY SEPARATE FROM THE INDIGENOUS MOVEMENT.

BUT THERE SEEMS TO BE SOME SORT OF EFFORT TO PERHAPS MAYBE BEGIN TO ADDRESS SOME OF THESE ISSUES, BUT FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR ACROSS THE BOARD, THIS IS FROM STORIES WE HAVE DONE INVOLVING ASIAN HATE AND THE WAY THAT THOSE COMMUNITIES HAVE BEEN TREATED IN AMERICA.

OF COURSE, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY AND THE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY, IF THIS AMOUNTS TO NOTHING MORE THAN SORRY, IT CAN FEEL EMPTY TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.

I SO WANT TO REALLY UNDERSTAND WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS RECONCILIATION MEAN, PARTICULARLY WHEN IT COMES TO PHILANTHROPY AND FINANCE?

NO, A PART OF TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION IS ACTUALLY NOT JUST SAYING I'M SORRY, BUT REALLY LISTENING TO WHAT WE, AS PEOPLE OF COLOR, SAY WE WANT AND NEED TO HEAL.

AND THEN PROVIDING THAT.

AND SO IN ADDITION TO TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION, WE NEED TO CONSIDER THE PETITION FOR R REPARATIONS FOR BLACK AMERICANS, WE NEED TO LISTEN TO WHAT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING IN ORDER FOR US TO MOVE FORWARD AND BE WELL AND HAVE THE ABILITY TO THRIVE IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

SO IT'S BOTH AN ACT OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, AN ACT OF APOLOGY, BUT ALSO AN ACT TO RECONCILIATION, WHICH MEANS THAT WE RIGHT A WRONG.

SO WE HAVE TO REPAIR AND REPAIR FOR ME IS LIKE REPARATIONS AND APPRECIATION FOR THE SELF-DETERMINATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY.

AND THE WORD 'REPARATIONS' HAS BEEN BANTERED ABOUT QUITE A BIT, BUT PERHAPS NOT WITH -- MAYBE NOT WITHOUT FULL UNDERSTANDING OR ALMOST EACH GROUP OR EACH INDIVIDUAL HAVING AN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT THAT MEANS.

SO WHEN IT COMES TO INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES, WHAT DOES REPARATIONS ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE?

FOR INDIGENOUS FOLKS, OUR DEMANDS VARY, BECAUSE WE HAVE 574 PLUS SOVEREIGN NATIONS IN THIS COUNTRY.

BUT IN GENERAL, I'M A PERSON WHO SUPPORTS FINANCIAL PAVEMENT FOR REPARATIONS.

I'M ADVOCATING FOR THAT FIRST FOR BLACK AMERICAN.

I DO THINK THAT SOME TYPE OF PAYOUT IS REQUIRED AND SHOULD BE GIVEN ALSO TO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE HERE.

BUT BEYOND MONEY, A LOT OF THE DEMANDS THAT YOU SEAL E COMING M OUR COMMUNITY ARE AROUND LAND AND THE DISPLACEMENT OF OUR FOLKS THROUGH FORCED REMOVALS, THROUGH THE LAST FEW HUNDRED YEARS HAS REALLY BEEN TRAUMATIC FOR OUR PEOPLE.

SO I THINK THE RETURNING LAND TO OUR COMMUNITIES IS A MAJOR DEMAND YOU'LL HEAR THESE #LANDBACK CAMPAIGNS ARE HAPPENING AROUND THE COUNTRY.

WE ARE ALSO ASKING FOR RESPECT AS SOVEREIGN NATIONS TO BE TREATED IN A GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT TYPE OF RELATIONSHIP WITH THE U.S.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, WHO CONTINUES TO VIOLATE THOSE UNDERSTANDINGS AND THOSE TREATIES THAT ARE IN PLACE.

WE HAVE BEEN PUT AS A PEOPLE TO BE UNDER SUBJECT SHUN OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO THE EXTENT THAT OUR TRIBES ARE NOT OFFICIAL TRIBES UNLESS THE U.S.

GOVERNMENT SAYS SO.

WE HAVE TO PROVE OUR ACCIDENTITO BE ELIGIBLE TO BE IN THOSE TYPES OF RELATIONSHIPS.

SO ALTHOUGH WE HAVE TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY, THERE'S SO MUCH AT STAKE THAT CONTINUES TO DENY OUR EXISTENCE AND PUT US UNDER THE FOOT OF THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

AND THESE DECADES OF OPPRESSIONS ARE RESULTING IN VERY HARMFUL IMPACTS IN OUR COMMUNITY.

THIS IS WHY WE HAVE HIGH RATES OF SUICIDE.

IMAGINE BEING A YOUNG PERSON FIGHTING FOR YOUR IDENTITY IN A COUNTRY WHO SAYS YOU'RE NOT NATIVE AMERICAN UNLESS THE U.S.

GOVERNMENT SAYS YOU ARE.

SO THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT WE WANT.

WE WANT TO BE -- WE WANT PROTECTIONS FOR OUR COMMUNITIES AND RESPECT FOR OUR TRIBAL SOVEREIGNTY.

WE WANT CONSULTATION BEFORE YOU BUILD PIPELINES THROUGH OUR COMMUNITIES.

SO WE CONTINUE TO BE TREATED AS A DIFFERENT CLASS OF CITIZEN IN THIS COUNTRY, AND CONTINUE TO BE DISRESPECTED BY THE U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

SO THOSE ARE JUST A FEW THINGS THAT WE'RE LOOKING TO CHANGE.

OKAY.

YEAH.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, FOR EVERYONE, JUST A QUICK REMINDER, THE BOOK IS 'DECOLONIZING WELT, INDIGENOUS WISDOM TO HEAL DIVIDES AND RESTORE BALANCE.'

THE AUTHOR IS THE PRINCIPAL OF THE COLONIZING WEALTH PROJECT AND LIBERATED CAPITAL.

SO EDGAR, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

> IN NOVEMBER, THE NATION CELEBRATES NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE.

IN A GROUND BREAKING FOUR-PART MINI SERIES, PBS PRESENTED A LOOK AT OUR NATION'S FIRST INHABITANTS, GO BACK 15,000 YEARS, EXPLORING THEIR ROOTS AND CULTURE, AND ALSO THEIR TRIUMPHS AND THE TRAGEDY THAT ULTIMATELY LED TO THE TRAIL OF TEARS.

IT ALSO INSCCLUDED THE CURRENT ENDEAVORS TO REDISCOVER THE GLORIOUS PAST.

TONIGHT, WE GO DEEPER INTO ONE COMMUNITY THAT WAS ONCE FORCIBLY SEPARATED 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 NATIVE TONGUE.

JENNA FLANAGAN HAS THE STORY.

Reporter: LANGUAGE, IT'S DEFINED AS A METHOD OF COMMUNICATION USED BY A COMMUNITY OR COUNTRY.

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

AS OF TODAY, THERE ARE ROUGHLY 6,500 LANGUAGES SPOKEN WORLDWIDE, WITH NEARLY 30% HAVING FEWER THAN 1,000 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?

WE START WITH THE CHILDREN.

THE LANGUAGE GIVES US OUR IDENTITY.

IT TEACHES US THE CULTURE AND HOW TO BE, IT TEACHES US HOW TO BE GRATEFUL.

AND WITHOUT THAT, WHO ARE WE?

Reporter: THAT'S ELVIRA SERGEANT, AN ELDER MEMBER OF THE MOHAWK NATION.

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.

OVER TIME, WE HAD TO GET INVOLVED.

Reporter: THE 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 PRIEST WHERE ENGLISH WAS MANDATORY AND THE MOHAWK LANGUAGE FORBIDDEN.

FREEDOM SCHOOL LEVEL FOUR TEACHER, LEVI HEARN, EXPLAINS THE LONG-TERM CULTURE EFFECT.

MOST OF THE FAMILIES IN THIS COMMUNITY AREN'T TRADITIONAL BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED WITH BOARDING SCHOOLS.

Reporter: ELVIRA SAYS SHE REMEMBERS HER FAMILY MEMBERS STRUGGLING WITH THE ADMINISTRATION.

MY SISTER WENT TO A RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL, AND MY UNCLE.

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 THIS -- 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.

WE KNEW THEY LOVED US, BUT -- OH, GOD.

UMM -- 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 THEN EVENTUALLY EVEN THAT PART GOT LOST.

AND IS THAT SAME NATURAL WAY THAT DRIVES THE FREEDOM SCHOOL.

THEY START AT THE AGE OF 1 WHERE THEY CAN GO INTO THE LANGUAGE.

BECAUSE THIS WAS THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE.

NOT ALL PARENTS CAN SPEAK THE LANGUAGE, BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT HEARING UNTIL THEY ENTER SCHOOL.

AND THE FOCUS IS ON DEVELOPING CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS OVER COMPULSORY.

I REALLY THINK THEY SHOULD TRY TO LEARN ANOTHER SPEAKER.

I'M AFRAID BEING IN A CLASSROOM ALL THE TIME, IT WILL BECOME A CLASSROOM LANGUAGE.

AND I DON'T WANT TO SEE THAT HAPPEN.

IT'S JUST BEFORE 8:00 A.M. AT THE 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 ARE REGULATED BY THEIR MOHAWK LANGUAGE ABILITY.

SO A CHILD AT LEVEL TWO SUSPECT NECESSARILY A SECOND GRADER, BUT RATHER A KID WHOSE CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS ARE STILL DEVELOPING, AND THAT CHILD CAN BE ANY AGE.

MY NAME IS -- CAN YOU SAY IT?

CLEARLY, I'M A NEW COMER TO THE LANGUAGE.

BUT SHE'S NOT ONLY PROFICIENT, SHE'S THE LEVEL EIGHT LANGUAGE TEACHER AND BREAKS DOWN MOHAWK PRONUNCIATION IN A WAY MY ENGLISH ONLY BRAIN CAN PROCESS IT.

K.A.H.

AND THIS IS -- COMES FROM THE WORD GASANA.

WHICH MEANS A NAME AND THIS IS GOHEY IS A JOURNEY.

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

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

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

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

AS SHE CONTINUES EXPLAINING, SHE SHARES HOW MODERN DAY SPEAKERS MAKE THE ANCIENT LANGUAGE WORK IN PRESENT DAY.

SO OUR LANGUAGE IS DESCRIPTIVE.

SO THE WAY WE HAVE ADAPTED TO OTHER NEW WORDS IS JUST TO DESCRIBE WHAT IS GOING ON.

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

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT A JOURNALIST DOES?

IF I DESCRIBED MYSELF IN THE MOHAWK LANGUAGE, HOW WOULD I CALL MYSELF?

I'M TRYING TO THINK.

SHE TELLS STORIES.

I LOVE THAT.

HOW DO I SPELL THAT?

I COULD SPELL IT FOR YOU ON THE BOARD.

OH, PLEASE DO.

THIS IS THE PRO-NOUN FOR HER.

AND THIS 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 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 TO THE NEXT GENERATION.

THROUGHOUT THE SCHOOL, THE KIDS ARE ENCOURAGED TO HELP ONE ANOTHER.

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 ENTHUZ YAS T -- ENTHEUSIASTIC TEACHERS.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

I TARA IS THE SCHOOL'S OFFICE MANAGER.

SHE HANDLES ADMISSIONS, BUDGETING, HIRING AND ENSURES THE SCHOOL MEETS ITS OVERALL MISSION.

PART OF THAT IS CREATING A FAMILIAR ATMOSPHERE FOR THE KIDS.

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

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

I THINK THE 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 SCHOOL.

AND TO HELP IMMERSE THEM INTO THE CULTURE OF THE LONG HOUSE F TRADITIONS, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS GATHER AND BEGIN WITH THE BUSINESS BEFORE ALL ELSE.

THANKS IS GIVEN TO THE CREATOR FOR EVERYTHING.

IT'S AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE 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 FORMED IN A CEREMONIAL WAY.

THESE ARE OPEN EVENTS THAT ANYONE CAN ATTEND, BUT FOR THE MOHAWK, SACRED CEREMONIES ARE CLOSED TO NON-NATION MEMBERS.

EVEN THOUGH THE FREEDOM SCHOOL HAS LESS THAN 100 KIDS ENROLLED, THE COMMUNITY IS 16,000 STRONG.

AND THE RESERVATION OVERLAPS THE U.S.-CANADIAN BORDER.

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

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

THEY TALK ABOUT BEING ON THE AMERICAN OR CANADIAN SIDE.

BUT WE DON'T FEEL AS WE'RE PART OF THE AMERICAN OR CANADIAN GOVERNMENT.

WE FEEL THAT WE'RE A SOVEREIGN NATION.

Reporter: TARA SAYS ONE OF THE BIGGEST WORRIES THAT PARENTS HAVE IS THE MOHAWK NATION WILL INHIBIT THE ABILITY TO LEARN ENGLISH.

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

TEACH THEM AT HOME.

DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.

THEY'LL GET IT.

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

ONCE THE FREEDOM SCHOOLS START ATTENDING PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL, 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 THE TEACHERS.

OR 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 OUT 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'S NOBODY SEGREGATED.

IT'S GOOD FOR THE YOUNGER KID TOSS SEE THE OLDER KIDS USING THE LANGUAGE.

TO PAY FOR ALL OF THIS, THE 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 DISTRIBUTE HAND MADE QUILTS BASED ON THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN THEY HAVE ENROLLED, AND SOME ARE EVEN DONATED BY PROFESSIONALS.

THIS IS A QUILT DONE BY THE PEACEMAKERS.

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 FREEDOM SCHOOL IS TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF THE MOHAWK CULTURE AND LANGUAGE.

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

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

AND WE'RE NOT.

THERE'S SO MANY DIFFERENT NATIONS, DIFFERENT CLOTHES, DIFFERENT CULTURES, DIFFERENT SONGS.

EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.

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

THERE'S SO LITTLE OF US COMPARED TO OTHER POPULATIONS.

BUT WE'RE HERE.

WE'RE DOING IT.

WE'RE GOING TO KEEP DOING IT.

WE'RE NOT GOING NOWHERE.

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

WE'RE JUST DOING OUR THING.

BIG HUG BEFORE I GO, EVERYBODY.

FOR 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

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

PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

THE JPB FOUNDATION.

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