The History of AFS
The Akwesasne Freedom School is a model for any Indigenous people who are concerned with losing their language, culture and identity. The school was formed to help the Mohawk Nation become strong again, by focusing on the young people. Our survival is dependent on the understanding of the old ways and preserving the knowledge that is passed down from grandparents to children. We want to help nurture strong, spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy people who will eventually become the leaders in our community.
Through knowledge we can gain a better understanding of the traditions and values that our elders have preserved for generations; values such as self-respect, community, and kinship with the natural world. Our language is taught thematically, based/patterned on the Ohenton Karihwatekwen (Thanksgiving Address or Words Before All Else). The language is learned through speaking, singing, and eventually writing and reading.
English is taught in the levels 7 & 8 to ease the transition into the public high school systems. This transition class will bring our students to a level equal to that of academic standards of other schools.
The Freedom School is not like other schools in the community, whereas subjects are taught set to a specific time frame. Here the subjects are taught in a holistic manner with no time frame restrictions. The Freedom School strives to keep our traditions and culture alive by bringing them into the classroom as everyday activities. We are hoping that this will in turn be welcomed into the family and the home. Encouragement for the children to speak at home is a must in order to have the language gain a foothold. Reinforcement of the language is the most important part of the survival of the language.
The knowledge that our students learn is parallel to what the children are learning in the other schools in the community. With the Kahswentha (Two-Row wampum) in mind, our students are learning subjects that are relevant to our culture and traditions. For history, our students learn when the Onkwehonwe leaders of our nation, instead of the presidents and senators of the United States. In the social aspect of academics our children learn how our government runs, who our chiefs are past and present.