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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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by Indian Time
Harvard's Honoring Nations Recognizes Excellence in Governance
Ohero:kon niece Krista Loran, 18, and nephew Karonies Thompson, 18, of Akwesasne accept the 2015 Honoring Nations - High Honors Award at the 72nd Annual Conference of the National Congress of American Indians on October 21, 2015. St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Beverly Cook was on hand to support the youth. Photos courtesy of Jessica Danforth and Alma Ransom.

AKWESASNE MOHAWK TERRITORY – Ohero:kon "Under the Husk" Rites of Passage, a ceremony reconstructed to empower Mohawk teens in their journey to adulthood, received high honors by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development's Honoring Nations program at the National Congress of American Indian's 72nd Annual Convention, held in San Diego last October.

The prestigious award identifies and celebrates exemplary tribal programs and governmental best practices, recognizing that "self-governance plays a critical role in rebuilding and sustaining strong, health Indian nations." Ohero:kon was one of six awardees, selected from 87 applicants, and one of just three programs to receive high honors. The honor comes with a $5,000 award and an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

On hand to accept the award were Ohero:kon representatives Krista Loran, 18, and Karonies Thompson, 18, both of Akwesasne. Expressing himself in Mohawk and English to an assembly of tribal leaders and fellow honorees, Mr. Thompson shared his experience as the youngest first-year nephew to participate in Ohero:kon and the role of uncle and peer leader he holds today. Ms. Loran testified to the power of people putting their minds together as one for the betterment of their children and future generations. They both expressed appreciation for the unique opportunity to help other Native nations restore their rites of passage.

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Beverly Cook, herself an Ohero:kon grandmother and advisor, attended the awards presentation. "These young people brought honor to us all as they expressed themselves through our Mohawk language and song," she said. "They briefly and precisely demonstrated to the NCAI delegates what uniting for the love of our children can accomplish. There is much work ahead for all of us as our children continue to learn compassion, acceptance, and how to make informed decision."

Mohawk Nation Bear Clan Mother Tewakierahkwa Louise McDonald reconstructed the rites of passage ceremony a decade ago in response to the needs of Akwesasne youth, particularly around their desire to access traditional ways and strengthen their cultural identity.

"Ohero:kon was created in a time of tremendous turmoil in our community," she said. "It was meant to help our youth reconnect to their identity as Indigenous people. This award is a testament to the work we've done and we celebrate it."

Nearly 90 youth and their families participated in Ohero:kon "Under the Husk" Rites of Passage in 2015. Group Photo courtesy Katsitsionni Fox

About Ohero:kon: An ever-growing circle of community leaders, helpers, teachers, family members and peers gather each winter and spring to carry out the mission of Ohero:kon – to continually develop a culture-based intervention for Mohawk and other Haudenosaunee youth while nurturing, assisting and empowering their transformation into adulthood.

In 2015, more than 80 teens completed a 20-week curriculum that included cultural instruction, empowerment activities, wilderness survival skills and ceremonies. Ohero:kon is made possible through support from the Community Partnership Fund of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and countless volunteers.

About Honoring Nations: Since the inception of the Honoring Nations program in 1998, over one-quarter of all tribes in the United States have applied for the award. Currently, 124 tribal government programs have been recognized from more than 80 tribal nations.

Honoring Nation's Program Director Megan Minoka Hill explains, "The Honoring Nations awardees are exemplary models of success and by sharing their best practices, all governments – tribal and non-tribal – can benefit."

The six tribal programs awarded in 2015 for excellence and innovation in governance include:

  • Academic Readiness Effort – Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians
  • Ho-Chunk Village – Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska
  • Kenaitze Tribal Court – Kenaitze Indian Tribe
  • Nez Perce Tribe Fisheries Department – Nez Perce Tribe
  • Ohero:kon "Under the Husk" Rite of Passage – Haudenosaunee Confederacy
  • School Based Health Center – Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes
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