Nations Recognizes Excellence in Governance
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."
90 youth and their families participated in Ohero:kon "Under
the Husk" Rites of Passage in 2015. Group Photo courtesy
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
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
- 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
- School Based Health Center Fort Peck Assiniboine and