AKWESASNE – Mr. Ernest M. Benedict “Kaientaronkwen”, 92, a well respected Mohawk Elder, of 893 Island Road, passed away unexpectedly Saturday morning, January 8, 2011, at the Cornwall Community Hospital, where he had been a patient since Tuesday.
Kaientaronkwen was born July 14, 1918 in Hogansburg, the son of the late Charles and Julia Jandreau Benedict. He attended schools on the Reserve , Bombay, and graduated from Massena High School. He attended Syracuse University and graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1940 with a BA in Sociology. He served as a radio man in the Signal Corps of the US Army during World War II. He received his Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa from Trent University in 1994. On September 20, 1952, he married Florence Hopps at the Massena Center Methodist Church with Rev. Cameron officiating.
Ernie once worked at Alcoa, Reynolds, and the Company of Young Canadians. He taught at Trent University, where he continued to serve on the PhD committee for Native Studies. Ernie also taught at Manatou College, Canton ATC, and was a guest speaker and lecturer at various other colleges throughout the United States and Canada. He started the North American Indian College Traveling College, where he served on the Board. Ernie was an elder and consultant to many colleges and associations, including the Native Friendship Center in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, the First Nations Technical School, the Assembly of First Nations, the National Indian Brotherhood and the Union of Ontario Indians and Mohawk Council of Akwesasne. He served on various boards throughout his life, including the Ronathahon:ni Cultural Center and the Onake Corporation.
Ernie was condoled a Traditional Life Chief “Rotinonkwiseres” in 1954 and initiated the health services on the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in conjunction with the Federal Indian Health Services. In 1939 until 1941, he was the Editor of the “War Whoop”, said to be the first newspaper in Akwesasne, later working with the “Kawehras” and the “Whathrori” during the 60’s. In 1968, Ernie started “Akwesasne Notes”, which became a prominent international newspaper. His many achievements in his life includes receiving the Canadian National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 1994, the Akwesasne Achievement Award in 2005, the Sol Feinstone Award from St. Lawrence University, of which he donated the proceeds to the Akwesasne Freedom School, and meeting Pope John Paul II. He served as a chief for the Mohawk Council from the 50’s through the 70’s and also served as a Grand Chief during that time.
Ernie supported all religious and traditional beliefs and was a strong advocate for the rebuilding of the Methodist Church on Cornwall Island. He also advocated for the ferry service in Akwesasne. Ernie enjoyed cutting wood, gardening, farming to support his family, and was an avid reader. Ernie will long be remembered as a person who dedicated his life to the promotion of language, education, cultural, health, political and social well being of Akwesasne and other indigenous peoples.
Kaientaronkwen is survived by his wife of 58 years, Florence; four children, Sally Benedict and her companion, Daniel W. George, Sr. and Rebecca Benedict, all of Akwesasne, Ontario, Lloyd Benedict and his wife, Donna of Akwesasne, and Daniel Benedict and his wife, Maureen of Snye, Quebec. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Lloyd William Benedict, Jr., Luz Benedict, Jasmine Benedict, Samantha Benedict, Karhiiosta Benedict, Kaheratonkwas Benedict, Julia and Katelyn Benedict, Kawehras George, and Jessica Benedict; a step grandson, Patrick Kosinksi; five great-grandchildren, Tyas, Peyton, Tehya, Jemison, and Aubrey. His sisters, Elda Cook of Akwesasne and Agnes Trail of Glendora, California and many nieces and nephews also survive him.
He was predeceased by two brothers, Arthur C. and Morris Benedict and four sisters, Charlotte Benedict, Eva Fragiacomo, Lillian Printup, and Elsie Olan.
Friends may call at the Tri-District Elders Center at at time to be announced.
Memorial contributions may be made in Ernie’s memory to the Akwesasne Freedom School.