Kanien’kehà’ka Elder and Knowledge Keeper Niioie:ren speaks to Outdoor Ed students


On Oct. 30, Dawson College students in Jonathan Egan’s Outdoor Education Activities course were fortunate to have Kanien’kehà’ka Elder and Knowledge Keeper Niioie:ren Patton of Kahnawà:ke speak to them out on the land. Surrounded by the beautiful trees and varied habitats of Île Saint-Bernard near Kahnawà:ke, students used old logs and moist ground as their gathering place.

While the weather called for rain, as Niioie:ren began to speak, the clouds broke apart and sunshine warmed us as we looked out onto the waters of Lac St-Louis. Speaking in Kanien’kéha, Niioie:ren began our gathering with the Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen, the Words That Come Before All Else.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, in her book Braiding Sweetgrass, wrote that this address is a “river of words as old as the people themselves” and “as an ancient order of protocol,” which “sets gratitude as the highest priority”. (Kimmerer 2013). After the greeting, Niioie:ren was gracious to translate everything she had said so we could understand the meaning of her words. She hoped that all who were present understood that these words are meant to be shared and understood by all who hear them.

Once finished her address to the students, we were invited to ask questions and look at some of the beautiful items Niioie:ren had brought with her. Symbolistic bead works, cornhusk dolls, braided sweetgrass and corn from her garden garnered curiosity from students. We are grateful for how generous and patient Niioie:ren was with her time and knowledge throughout the morning gathering. We would like to thank Niioie:ren for her visit, Diana Rice (Dawson College Peace Centre) for her assistance and guidance, and Douglas Smyth (Faculty, Physical Education) for his beautiful photographs.

-Submitted by Jonathan Egan (Faculty, Physical Education)

Last Modified: November 3, 2021