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Smartphone app aimed at aiding Mohawk language growth

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HOGANSBURG — A St. Regis Mohawk tribal member has unveiled a smartphone application to help people learn to speak the Kanienkeh, or Mohawk, language.

Monica Peters, 42, a columnist for the Indian Time newspaper based on the reservation, said the app dictates various words and phrases, but it gives only a rough translation. She said this is meant to encourage communication in Kanienkeh between app users and native speakers. She feels this will foster a firmer grip on the nuances of the language.

“I want people to go out and talk to fluent speakers,” Ms. Peters said. “It’s sad that we need a machine to help us talk.”

Talk Mohawk begins by teaching the Thanksgiving Address, which is the traditional first lesson in the language.

“It teaches a more peaceful view of the world,” Ms. Peters said. “It’s to give thanks to everything — birds, trees, fish, the creator. Everything.”

The app is available for $24.99 for Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and will be available for Android and Blackberry devices in the coming months.

Ms. Peters said findings from archival research she did in the western United States years ago helped motivate her to create the application. She said Native American children were forced into residential schools to be assimilated into white culture and denied their language and heritage.

“It’s a miracle any of us are still here, especially speaking our languages,” she said.

She said there are Mohawk elders today, including her grandparents, who survived the abusive residential schools.

She said she wants to do her part to get the tribe back to its roots and heal from the long-term effects of the residential schools.

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