Exploring Kahnawá:ke, an Indigenous community on the edge of the island

Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador is a reporter who works in the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke. When she’s not reporting the news, she is out and about in her favourite city in the world, Montréal. Of Latin-American descent, she enjoys good food and drinks, art and culture and spending time with friends.

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This article was updated on May 18, 2022.

Nothing beats actually visiting an Indigenous community to truly experience its culture. Luckily, the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community at Kahnawá:ke (On the Rapids) is located on Montréal’s South Shore, a short 25-minute drive from the city’s downtown core.

Kahnawá:ke is one of eight territories that make up the Mohawk Nation. The community is also a founding nation of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), commonly referred to as Iroquois. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is comprised of six other sovereign nations, including the Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida Nations. Historians recognize the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation as a steward of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). Moreover, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has strong historical and archeological ties to the area. The community of Kahnawá:ke has a vibrant culture and rich history that attracts many visitors from around the world.

 

Here is a list of destinations that are musts to explore in Kahnawá:ke

Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow wow

After a two-year absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow wow will be back in full force this summer! Every year, thousands of people attend this highly anticipated gathering of different nations to celebrate Indigenous music, dance, food and arts and crafts. Since 1991, the pow wow has taken place on Tekakwitha Island on the closest weekend to July 11 in commemoration of the Oka Crisis that occurred during the summer of 1990 and lasted 78 days. The event promotes friendship and sharing between Kahnawake, its neighbours and, of course, visitors from all parts of the world.

Church and Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

The shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is located at the Saint Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Church. ‘Lily of the Mohawks’, as Kateri was known, was a young Mohawk woman who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. The saint’s tomb is found to the right of the main altar and is open for mass every Sunday. Visitors can also check out the Saint Kateri Interpretive Centre, a museum based on the life and afterlife of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and is located next door to the mission. Starting in June daily tours will be available again to the public.

The Kahnawá:ke Tourism Welcome Center is also offering a one-hour walking tour of Kahnawá:ke’s historic village.

Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa Language and Cultural Center

Inaugurated in 1978, the Language and Cultural Center was built with the goal of preserving and revitalizing Kahnawá:ke’s unique cultural heritage. Those interested in the language will be delighted by the many Kanien’kéha (Mohawk language) and English books that the centre carries in its considerable library.

The center also has an extensive photographic archive of the community and its people going back almost a century. And last but definitely not least, the Language and Culture Center hosts a number of art exhibitions that feature the works of local and non-local Indigenous artists.

The center will be reponing shortly after moving to a new location in the community in the fall of 2021. Tours will be forthcoming.

This year, to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day, Kahnawá:ke Tourism has planned an Indigenous Block Party on June 21, where visitors can come and enjoy amazing local foods as well as shop at the local craft vendors that will be onsite. The celebration will include live music and fun-filled activities for all.

Also, in June, the 7th annual Strawberry Food Festival will take place and culminate in a collective weekend-long event where visitors and locals alike will be able to enjoy strawberry-themed creations from local restaurants and vendors. The festival goes until the end of July. The festival was ordinally created to promote traditional food and culture.

Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador is a reporter who works in the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke. When she’s not reporting the news, she is out and about in her favourite city in the world, Montréal. Of Latin-American descent, she enjoys good food and drinks, art and culture and spending time with friends.

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