St. Lawrence Students Reflect on Semester in Akwesasne

Throughout the semester, fifteen first-year students from St. Lawrence University participated in various community outreach projects in Akwesasne as part of the course, "Social and Environmental Issues Facing First Nations Peoples Today." The class was instructed by Celia Nyamweru and was designed to improve communication skills through research and presentations. The class has been offered since Spring 2006, and on Apr. 28 the students held their first open house at the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club. 

"This is the first time hosting an open house to share info and raise awareness of St. Lawrence students in Akwesasne," said Brenda Papineau, Director of Community Partnerships at
St. Lawrence University. 

The students spent 2 hours every Wednesday at an Akwesasne partner organizations gathering data and performing community service. Students were partnered wi th the Akwesasne
Boys and Girls Club, Akwesasne Freedom School, St. Regis Mohawk School, Akwesasne Cultural Center arid Museum and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division. They also conducted interview with community members who were extremely helpful in bringing to light issues faced by the Mohawk peopIe in Akwesasne. 

"I was inspired by working at the Akwesasne Freedom school," said Emily Brown, whose project was on culture and language immersion programs. "The kids do want to learn their language. But, many don't because of the effects of boarding schools. So, I wanted to know what the community was doing to change that." 

The formal class hours included a number of presentations from Akwesasne community members, including Ken Jock (SRMT Environment Division), SalJi Benedict, Darren Bonaparte, Brian David (who talked about iron workers), Joni Cole, Kanientehawi Sharrow, Emily Lauzon, Jay Tarbell and Jim Ransom. 

"We also watched the film Frozen River and had a spirited discussion/critique of the film with Carole Ross, Suzy Jacobs and Jamie Ross," said Nyamweru.

The class is very grateful for having the opportunity to work with Akwesasne and their poster presentations showed a lot of growth and insight for first year students learning to conduct research projects.

"We really appreciate the support and interest we have had from the community!" said Nyamweru.

Mary La France, Indian Time. Reprinted by permission.