español   français   english   português

dph is part of the Coredem

dialogues, proposals, stories for global citizenship

Akwesasne Freedom School (Canada)


03 / 1993

The Akwesasne Freedom School is an alternative school for Mohawk children in Akwesasne, a reservation located along the St-Lawrence River which straddles the provinces of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, and the State of New York in the United States. It is a Mohawk community-created and community-run school, independent from the Western School systems of Canada and of the United States; it is completely based on the Mohawk culture. Everything is conducted in the Mohawk language, from the kindergarten level to the sixth grade. The purpose of the school is to reclaim Mohawk traditional values, customs and ceremonies, to prevent their destruction in the White Man’s school system, and to instill a sense of pride in being Mohawk and in being part of the Mohawk Nation.


The school was founded in 1979 when a dispute between traditional Mohawks and the elected Tribal Council escalated into an armed confrontation with the New York State Police. Racquette Point, a section of the reservation where the confrontation occurred, was sealed off by the police. Prevented from leaving the area for a whole year, parents set up a small schoolhouse to continue their children’s education. It was through this process of teaching their own children that parents realized the need, importance and possibility of providing a traditional Native approach to their children’s school education. When the siege ended, the school continued to operate and enrollment increased. In the science programme, students learn how the earth evolved from the Iroquois creation story of a woman who fell from the sky and was saved by the birds of the sky-world, who set her upon the back of a turtle, the Iroquois symbol for the earth. The creation story is the foundation of the programme. It serves to foster respect for the earth and instills environmental responsibility and a kinship relationship with plants, animals, rocks, rivers, etc. Students also follow the Mohawk ceremonial cycle of the seasons. History is taught from a Native perspective.

Key words

sustainable development, environment

, Canada


The Mohawk language is on the verge of extinction : the majority of people under the age of forty cannot speak the language fluently. Five percent of teenagers and one percent of preschoolers now speak Mohawk as a primary language. If Germans or Italians lose their language in America, they know that their language and culture live on in Germany or Italy. For Native people, their language and culture begin and end in North America. For this reason, the Akwesasne Freedom School is the focal point for sustaining Mohawk culture and securing it for future generation.


colloque : "Living with the Earth", May 1992


Colloquium, conference, seminar,… report


Réseau Sud Nord Cultures et Développement - 172 rue Joseph II. B-1040 BRUXELLES. BELGIQUE. Tel (19)32 2 230 46 37.Fax (19)32 2 231 14 13 - Belgium

legal mentions