June 10, 2009


Diploma program offered in Native languages

Introduces a path to university for Six Nations students

Hamilton, ON. June 10, 2009 –McMaster University’s Indigenous Studies Program in partnership with Six Nations Polytechnic and the Six Nations community will offer in September a language diploma in Ogweho:weh.

In the Cayuga language Ogweho:weh roughly translates to “original beings”.

The Ogweho:weh Language Diploma will build a comprehensive understanding of Ogweho:weh language and culture. Aimed at students from Six Nations, it will be offered in both Mohawk and Cayuga, two of six Haudenosaunee languages.

“It is a terrific way to introduce a pathway into university studies for the people of Six Nations,” says Peter Smith, associate vice-president academic, at McMaster University. “Equally important is the opportunity to help preserve a First Nations culture whose traditions and history have been largely held by its elders.”

In its pilot phase the course will be offered through McMaster’s Centre for Continuing Education as a two-year program, but eventually it will evolve into a four-year degree program. Instructors from Six Nations Polytechnic will teach the courses, and McMaster University’s Indigenous Studies Program will have academic oversight of the program. More than 60 people have already enrolled.


 “Our languages are at the brink of extinction, with less than 2,000 fluent speakers in Mohawk and Cayuga, most of them over the age of 50,” says Dawn Martin-Hill, director of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster, and a member of the Mohawk Nation, Wolf Clan. “This program will literally save a culture from losing its language.” 

The course comes at a time when a number of First Nations communities are experiencing a cultural and linguistic revival. Out of this program will evolve the Indigenous Knowledge Centre for the purpose of conserving and promoting Ogweho:weh language and culture.

First Nations, Métis, and Indigenous people are the fastest growing population in Canada—it has experienced a 45 per cent growth since 1996—and it is also the youngest population with the majority under the age of 25. Six percent of aboriginals will complete a post-secondary degree or diploma program. 

“It is remarkable progress,” says Martin-Hill. “Fifty years ago, First Nations were not allowed to pursue post-secondary education unless they agreed to enfranchise [lose their Indian status]. Now the opportunity exists for Native students to learn their ancestral languages.”

Martin-Hill credits the elders of Six Nations for their diligent work (without any funding), in creating the written orthographies and for helping to produce the curriculum.

McMaster University, one of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 145,000 alumni in 128 countries.


For additional information contact:

Jane Christmas

Manager, Public and Media Relations

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 27988


Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager, Broadcast Media

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22869