Akwesasne TV reps join event in Paris to preserve indigenous languages
Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 2:56 pm

AKWESESNE -- Representatives of Akwesasne TV, partnering with the United Nations in the International Year of Indigenous Languages, have appeared at a kickoff event in Paris as part of the effort to preserve, revitalize and promote Indigenous languages around the world.

The local television station owned by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Mohawk Networks, LLC specializes in Indigenous storytelling using traditional and contemporary television programming and the latest information sharing technology, according to a press release from the Mohawks in northern New York and southern Ontario.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages(IYIL), to foster social, economic and political development, reconciliation and peace building.

The U.N. has recognized that 40 percent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. Most of these are Indigenous languages, putting the cultures and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk.

“Akwesasne TV was founded on the basis of Indigenous storytelling, our mission is to share our language, culture and heritage through this oral tradition,” said Regan Jacobs, executive producer and director of Akwesasne TV.

“A key component of our programming is focused on telling our stories from a community level, and having the Mohawk language shared in the content our station produces,” she said.

“It’s an historic step for us to connect our own language preservation efforts to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.”

Saint Regis Mohawk Tribal Chief Eric Thompson helped foster Akwesasne TV’s initial mission when the station was first created.

“When the Tribe founded the station, language and cultural programming were at the forefront of our vision for the station,” Chief Thompson said. “The evolution of our storytelling weaves our culture into each production, and we have developed a broad palette of programming aimed at highlighting our people, language and history. We tell the story of how we’re making a conscious, deliberate impact on the revitalization of our own culture - today.”

Jacobs said one of her goals for the year is to highlight how community organizations, like the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, have prioritized language revitalization at the community level.

"We are in the midst of producing unique language-based content and programming to enhance and promote Kanien'kéha," she said. “It’s an exciting time to be an Indigenous storyteller. I don’t want to reveal too much, but we will be putting a call out to the first language speakers in the community to collaborate on this initiative.”

An official IYIL event launch -- themed “Indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation,” was held in Paris, France, at the U.N. on Monday, Jan. 28, attended by Jacobs.

Gathered at the event were high-level governmental officials, indigenous peoples, representatives of civil society, academia, media, information and memory organizations, United Nations agencies, public language harmonization and documentation institutions and private sector bodies.