School fights to revive native Canadian language

Thu Feb 14, 2008 7:07pm EST
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By Julie Gordon

OHSWEKEN, Ontario (Reuters) - In a grey, shed-like building on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in southern Ontario, Esenogwas Jacobs is getting her kindergarten students ready to head home for the day.

"Gao dehswe," Jacobs says, calling her students to the door.

"Gyahde:dih," she adds, it's time to go.

Her students answer with assertive "ehes."

No one speaks a word of English.

"I just use Cayuga with them," Jacobs said. "Mostly they can respond back in Cayuga, so it's pretty cool."

The eight children of this kindergarten class carry on their shoulders the hopes for preserving the language of the Cayugas, one of the six nations that make up the Iroquois Confederacy of southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

Since the 19th Century and until recently, Canada has pushed for the assimilation of its native population, sending aboriginal children to boarding schools where they were taught the language, culture and spirituality of Canadian society.   Continued...

<p>A sign at the entrance of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve in southwestern Ontario, Canada, January 31, 2008. REUTERS/Julie Gordon</p>