Features

Four cultures of youth connect, break down stereotypes

Daniel J. Rowe, Courtesy The Eastern Door

Two days before Canada 150 celebrations and accompanying protests dotted the country, Kahnawake was host to a celebration, one of sharing and learning.

“Origins” was a gathering of 48 youth and leaders from the Muslim Community Centre, Dorshei Emet Jewish Centre, the Montreal United Church and A:se Tahonatehiaróntie youth group from Kahnawake, who met in the community June 29 to share and learn about one another.

“That’s why we timed it this way,” said Kahnawake United Church minister Lisa Byer-de Wever, who wanted to open a dialogue about the realities facing Kahnawake and other communities. The groups met at the Kanienkehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language and Cultural Center to share stories, and ask each other questions.

“It was so amazing, and they’re so excited to do it again,” Wever said.

As hosts, Kahnawake’s youth were able to answer questions about the community.

“It was really interesting because they asked a lot of questions that I thought I wouldn’t get,” said 15-year-old Karennahen:te Mara Horn. “They still thought we lived in ribbon clothes (North American Native ceremonial costume) and didn’t leave town.”

Wever was inspired by the way the youth responded to the issues raised.

“What’s really amazing is that the kids are questioning the information they’re getting,” she said, recalling a 13-year-old Muslim boy, who came to the community and shared a story of how he challenged a teacher who suggested a stereotypical idea of the Onkwehón:we way of life. Many said the experience was positive.

“I got to learn about them and they got to learn about my culture,” said Horn. “They got a better understanding and not just what they learned in history class.”

Leaders Karina Peterson and Adrienne Zachary hope when Kahnawake visits the Muslim community in August, the reverse of last week’s experience will happen.

“When they came here they got to ask the questions that they had been thinking about,” said Zachary. “I’m hoping what they get from the other groups is the same thing: to really understand their culture.

Condensed from the original that can be viewed at easterndoor.com.

danielr@easterndoor.com

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