Geographies of Home, Memory, and Heart: Mohawk Elder Praxis, Land, Language, and Knowledge Woven in Place
AuthorHolmes, Amanda L.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 01-May-2019
AbstractKanien'keha:ka and Rotinonhshonni languages, knowledges, teachings, philosophies, epistemologies, and ethical systems exist in relation to the living presence of lands and the natural world, ancestral homelands, the presence of Ancestors and ancestral knowledge, collective narrative memory (McLeod, 2007), from within places of ancient relationship and meaning. Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhshonni knowledge is carried within the language and teachings by Elders and Knowledge Holders; as beloved Oneida Knowledge Bearer Bob Antone (2013b) says, “Elders [are] the wisdom-keepers of repository knowledge” (p. vii). Attention to this intricate interweaving, this network of relationships – and the ways they are lived and embodied by Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhshonni Elders – holds the potential for the renewal and resurgence of Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhshonni languages, worldviews, knowledge systems, ways of knowing-being, and oral intergenerational practices that interrupt and transform the processes of knowledge and language loss that are a direct result of Settler-Colonial invasion. This research theorizes Elder Praxis, Indigenous Elders’ critical thinking and ethical action, their voice and vision, the ways they provide guidance, perception, wisdom, humor, knowledge, ways of knowing and being, paying careful attention to the re-envisioning and renewal of ancient memory, listening for the relationalities between language, knowledge, and memory that cycle through the everyday of today, the transformative capacity of intergenerational relationship guided by the praxis of Onkwehon:we Elders. Theorizing Onkwehon:we Elder Praxis suggests a re-orientation, a re-centering, of critical and transformative relationships, practices, ethics, and protocols, an intergenerational, oral-relational framework for the restoration, renewal, and resurgence of Onkwehon:we languages, community-centered knowledges and practice, mediated by and rooted within the lived, everyday ways of knowing-being of Elders. Restoring and re-storying oral, intergenerational relationships locates Haudenosaunee Elders at the center of a process of renewal and resurgence, a critical nexus of cultural meaning, knowledge, and practice within the generations, “maintain[ing] those cycles of continuous creation,” as Kanien’keha:ka midwife Katsi Cook puts it (Cook, 2008, p. 165). Theorizing Elder Praxis remembers and situates Indigenous Elders at the heart of Indigenous cultural, linguistic, and intellectual resurgence. Correspondingly, this dissertation also elaborates a “new” theoretical framework of Critical Indigenous Language Restoration and Renewal, re-conceptualizing and re-contextualizing Indigenous language revitalization from within a Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhsionni network or matrix of intergenerational relationships to each other, to Ancestors, to future generations, to our Mother the Earth, and to the natural world of Creation, quickened and mediated by the knowledge ways and praxis of Onkwehon:we Elders. Conceptualizing and contextualizing in new ways, from different centers, a critical framework for renewing relationships to language and cultural knowledge deepens the healing, regeneration, and possibilities for the resurgence of Rotinonhsionni community, held within the epistemologies, philosophies, teachings, and cultural practices of a Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhsionni universe. Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Community, as a reflection of Tom Porter’s Mohawk Elder Praxis, embodies a re-envisioning and re-imagining of the contemporary meaning and relevance of well-worn pathways, intergenerational continuities, collective narrative memory (McLeod, 2007), persistence, and presence within Kanien:keh, Mohawk lands and ancestral homelands. Kanatsiohareke forms a Kanien'keha:ka and Rotinonhshonni resistance to the hegemony of Settler-Colonial invasion and overculture by re-centering within Kanien’keha:ka meaning, lifeways, and worldviews, a self-determining restoration, renewal, and resurgence. In the process of Mohawk re-visioning, re-narrating and re-imagining, the reciprocity of intergenerational presence-ing to each other mediated by the praxis of a Mohawk Elder, Mohawk and Iroquois people re-connect to intergenerational relationships of language and knowledge, to a Kanien'keha:ka-Rotinonhsionni universe, in the context of traditional community. As they return to this context of ancestral homeland and traditional Kanien’keha:ka community, to older patterns and orientations in this place, they re-weave relations and reciprocities between language, cultural knowledge, memory, identity, generations, land, and the natural-spiritual world. In these ways, they are awakening ancient coherence, consciousness, and action, engaging the aspiration of what John Mohawk calls cultural re-development, reminding us that “the redevelopment of culture on a human scale is the only practical way that people and peoples can regain control of their lives and their destinies” (Mohawk in Barreiro, 2010, p. 199).
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture