Ontario Aronhiaies Herne, a 23-year-old teacher and cultural
program coordinator from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne, has
been selected as one of 11 aboriginal youths that will have the
job of a lifetime over the next few months running with the
Olympic Flame as its guide and protector to ensure it keeps burning
bright on its cross-Canada journey.
will be joined by two Akwesasne Mohawks who were also chosen to
have an active part in the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay Mike
Benedict Jr. (community torchbearer) and Howard "Iothore" Thompson
(honorary elder fire keeper).
journey as a flame attendant began Oct. 27 when he traveled to Greece,
the birthplace of the modern-day Olympic Games, to safeguard the
flame as it made its way to Canada. He is one of two aboriginal
youths chosen to retrieve the Olympic Flame based on his performance
at a test event. He was selected to watch over and maintain the
flame before and during the longest domestic relay in Olympic history.
be nominated by your own community is a great honor," Herne said.
"I wouldn't be able to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime event
without the support of my family. I want to express my appreciation
to them and to the community for allowing me to represent Akwesasne
as a flame attendant in the Olympic Torch Relay."
is a Mohawk language and cultural preservationist for the community
of Akwesasne. He was a fourth grade teacher at the Akwesasne Freedom
School for four years, where he continues to volunteer his time
to teach Mohawk students in social and ceremonial songs. For the
past two years, he has also worked as the cultural program coordinator
at the Akwesasne Boys & Girls Club. Herne is also a condoled
sub-chief for the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs one of
the youngest in more than a generation.
was originally nominated as a community torchbearer by his wife,
Kaienthokwas, and was nominated as an aboriginal youth flame attendant
by the Akwesasne Olympic Torch Organizing Committee. Both nominations
were based on Herne's life-long pursuit of promoting language and
culture, as well as his athletic achievements and contributions
to the Mohawk community of Akwesasne.
three years he has played for the Akwesasne Wolves, a Junior "B"
hockey team in the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League, and in
the 2006 2007 season was selected as the team's most valuable
player. Herne will be utilizing his experience as an assistant coach
during the Akwesasne Wolve's upcoming hockey season. In the off-season,
Herne plays lacrosse for the Cornwall Island Redman in the Senior
"B" Lacrosse League.
his nomination as a flame attendant, the Akwesasne Organizing Committee
noted that Herne's traditional upbringing has taught him from a
young age to make decisions based on what is best for the community.
Since graduating from high school, he has worked to cultivate and
pass on the Mohawk culture and language to the community's youth.
Herne's willingness to share his knowledge makes him an ideal ambassador
of not only Akwesasne, but for all Haudenosaunee people. His internal
fire and strength will help keep the Olympic Flame lit during its
journey across Canada.
Benedict Jr., Akwesasne, was selected to be among 119 community
torchbearers to carry the Olympic Flame in their respective First
Nations communities. All community torchbearers were nominated by
neighbors, family and friends who felt they best represented their
community's achievements and dreams.
will carry the Olympic Torch along a designated route when it visits
Akwesasne, as well as take part in a ceremony with a community elder
when it arrives in December.
is a well-known community member and athlete, excelling in sports
at various levels throughout his life not only as an athlete,
but as a coach and often as a referee. He was a member of a high
school hockey team that won the New York State Championship during
his senior year, and which traveled to Sweden and Finland to play.
In 2008, his state championship hockey team was inducted into the
Salmon River Central School's Sports Hall of Fame.
is also one of the best lacrosse players of his generation, having
been a member of championship-winning teams and named to several
all-star teams, as well as game MVPs. He has played in England for
the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team and began his professional
lacrosse career in 1995 in the Major Indoor Lacrosse League, with
his team winning the World Lacrosse Championship in 1997.
Honorary Elder Fire Keepers
keepers traditionally play a dual role in aboriginal ceremonies:
They are tasked with keeping fires burning during ceremonies and
teaching the spiritual meanings of the fire. Whenever the Olympic
Flame arrives in an aboriginal community during the Olympic Torch
Relay, an elder chosen by his or her people will act as an honorary
fire keeper and perform a short ceremony for the flame. The role
is an honor and acknowledgment of the person's commitment to the
teachings of their nation.
will be 119 fire keepers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay,
including Mohawk elder Howard "Iothore" Thompson of Akwesasne. Thompson,
who is a condoled chief for the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs,
will welcome the Olympic Flame, on behalf of the Mohawk people,
during a brief ceremony when the Olympic Torch makes a scheduled
stop in Akwesasne during the month of December.