A member of the Mohawk Nation will come to the Connemara Gaeltacht to study Irish this summer as the first participant in a new annual scholarship programme announced in Dublin on Wednesday.
Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands Seán Kyne and Mohawk Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton announced details of the Mohawk Irish language scholarship at a ceremony at Government Buildings during which the two men also exchanged gifts.
The programme will see a scholar from Kahnawá:ke – a First Nations territory located in the Canadian province of Québec – attend an Irish language course in An Cheathrú Rua, in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht for three weeks during the summer.
The award, which is valued at around €2,000, will be administered by the Ireland Canada University Foundation (ICUF) and is jointly funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Mohawk community itself.
Speaking at Government Buildings where he was presented with a bodhrán by the minister, Mr Norton said: “We are here because of language and because we are attempting to bring together our people as much as possible – to learn from each other and experience from each other what we cherish: our language and our culture.”
He added that the programme would bring young Mohawk people to Ireland “so they can enjoy themselves and be part of something that is historic”.
The grand chief said there was value in having members of his community visit Ireland on a yearly basis “to understand what the country is about to get to understand what the people are about”.
“It’s not just about the language, it is about knowing the cultural and historical background, to bring that back home, and talk to our people about the same struggles that this country is going through – that we are going through too as Mohawk people.”
Established in 1993, the ICUF awards a range of scholarships to Irish and Canadian scholars and academics each year in order to nurture cultural and academic links between the two countries.
The department provides funding to the ICUF and the Fulbright Commission, which operates a similar programme in the US.
Mr Kyne, who was presented with a Mohawk symbol and flag, said he hoped the scholarship would foster links between the Mohawk people and Ireland.
“It will be be our honour to welcome a Mohawk scholar to An Cheathrú Rua. Like the Irish, the Mohawk people are known across the world for their rich culture, heritage and language.
“It is important that we build those cultural links. The Mohawk Nation was occupied and repressed in the years gone by as this country has. We have the shared commonality of a language under pressure, of a population under pressure, of pressures from English and everything else.”
Programme participants will join other students from Canada and the US in An Cheathrú Rua where they will study the Irish language and culture over a three-week period while staying with local families.
Earlier this year, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a scholarship for Choctaw people to study in Ireland. The announcement was made during a visit to the Choctaw Nation to commemorate the tribe's fundraising efforts for the victims of the Famine.