Quebec Liberal MP Marc Miller stunned everyone while delivering a statement in Mohawk in the House of Commons last week.
According to CBC News, “it's the first time the Mohawk language has been spoken in either of Canada's houses of Parliament since Confederation, according to research provided by the Library of Parliament.”
“It was a bit of a revelation,” Miller said. “It's very odd that we can say hello in 15 languages that aren't Canadian, but we can't say hello in a First Nations language. This is just the tip of iceberg. If you can communicate, you can understand where people are coming from.”
Miller is one of a handful of non-Indigenous learners of Kanyen'kéha (or Mohawk), an Iroquoian language that has been spoken for millennia in southern Ontario and Quebec and upstate New York. Estimates on the number of speakers vary wildly because there are people with varying degrees of fluency, but roughly 3,500 are considered “native speakers.”
“I expected a tremendous amount of skepticism,” Miller said when he first approached teachers at Onkwawenna Kentyohkwa, a community-based training program run by the Six Nations of the Grand River near Brantford, Ont.
“I always thought they'd laugh at me and say, ‘Is this guy ridiculous? Who is this clown?' But it's been the opposite. It's been extremely positive.”
And here's the transcript of what was said in English:
“I pay my respects to you who have gathered here.
I stand here to honour the Mohawk language and I pay my respects to their people.
Let us pay respects to the Creator for everything he has given to us that we may live peacefully.
I am proud to stand here and speak to you in the Mohawk language.
Hopefully it will help us to become better friends.
I also hope that we will hear the Mohawk language a lot more often here and that more Canadians will be proud to use it to speak to one another.
I pay my respects to you, the master of this house. (‘Thank you, Mr. Speaker')”