Holistic Education Initiative At Six Nations Has Found A Home
The school seeks to renew the spirit of Kanyen’keha through a deeper connection to the earth by providing families with a school/community life based on the seasonal and ceremonial calendar of the Rotinonhsonni.
The school was founded in June 2010 by a group of parents and teachers seeking a holistic experience in education. The vision of Skaronhese’ko:wa Tsyoterakentko:wa Tsi Yontaweya’tahkwa is to provide a holistic Waldorf education rooted in Kanyen’keha (Mohawk Language), Onkwehonweneha (The way of life of our ancestors) with the children at the centre.
Since 2010 the school has been temporarily operating on private property located on 2nd line. A group of parents came together seeking an alternative education for their children, many of whom had been already immersed in Kanyen’keha within their homes.
Some members of the group bring the experience of Waldorf Education. Waldorf Education inspires life-long learning using the head, heart, and hands. Immediately upon observing Waldorf Education in action, similarities to Rotinonhson:ni teachings and philosophies were apparent. They began to explore ways in which the two could be merged together in an education system to meet the needs of the children at Six Nations of the Grand River.
Skaronhese’ko:wa Tsyohterakentko:wa Tsi Yontaweya’tahkwa honours their Rotinonhson:ni heritage and is based on the cycle of ceremonies. The children are actively involved in the ceremonies as they unfold throughout the year. The program is unique, providing a learning experience not available at any other school within the community.
Last June as the second year of school operations was successfully winding down, representatives opened the lines of communication with Six Nations Elected Council seeking the use of the former S.S. No. 8 School property, as research revealed that the lot is band-owned. The school is temporarily located on the property of Scott Smith, which is adjacent to the S.S. No. 8 School property. The agreement is similar to the those granted to other community organizations including Six Nations Polytechnic, and most recently Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo.
The students spend a significant amount of their day outdoors, learning and exploring their natural surroundings. Ironically, they are utilizing the same trails, and woods that the students of Oliver M. Smith once explored at No. 8 School. O.M. Smith believed in the importance of experiential learning and encouraging a hands-on relationship with nature. He is highly recognized as being a very influential person in education within our community, as evidenced by the fact that there is an elementary school named in his honour.
Recognizing the legacy left by his grandfather, Mr. Smith agreed to assist the school with a permanent home. He agreed to provide the clean up and infrastructure necessary at the S.S. No. 8 School property.
Six Nations Elected Council accepted the agreement and approved the use of the land by Skaronhese’ko:wa Tsyohterakentko:wa Tsi Yontaweya’tahkwa – The Everlasting Tree School for as long as required for educational purposes.
Moving to the No. 8 School property ensures minimal disruption to the school community and the environment that the children have become attached to. They will still have access to all of the resources they are familiar with. Linking the two properties provides an unlimited amount of natural resources including a creek, well established trails, Maple trees for tapping, fruit trees, ponds, a garden, and more.
In addition, the program will continue the legacy of O.M. Smith and the former No. 8 School in providing the children of Six Nations of The Grand River with an education rich in their language and culture.
To date, we have serviced 27children and 18 families. Of these families, the majority have at least one parent who has graduated from one of the adult immersion programs within the Six Nations community. The majority of the children in our program are hearing and learning Kanyen’keha in their homes. Through the commitment and dedication of their parents, we have at least two students who can already be considered fluent, bilingual speakers, and several emerging speakers. Many of these families also have multiple younger children who are learning within the home from birth who will attend the program in the future.
Additionally, opportunities for adult learners of Kanyen’keha to volunteer may be available to utilize and practice their acquired language skills. Supply teaching opportunities are available to teachers of Kanyen’keha seeking teaching experience in an alternative, immersion setting.
Skaronhese’ko:wa Tsyohterakentko:wa Tsi Yontaweya’tahkwa – The Everlasting Tree School provides an alternative education for committed families who are continually seeking language learning opportunities as they work collectively to revitalize Kanyen’keha at Six Nations of the Grand River.