Ohenton Karihwatehkwen

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Several people asked me for a translation of the Iroquois Opening Address to Creation, Ohenton Karihwatehkwen (The Words that Come Before All Else) that Frances had asked me to do last Friday.

To learn the Opening was one of my learning objectives, and I was happy to do it; it was good practice.

As I mentioned, the Opening has a frozen form, but free words. Everyone says it differently, even the same speaker on different occasions.

That being said, I prefer to provide a variety of samples, all of which can be found on the internet as follows:

Very short version


Super short version


Very Short version with graphics


Short version


The version I did was slightly longer than the longest above; however, it was still a short version.

For several longer versions see "From the earth to beyond the sky : an ethnographic approach to four Longhouse Iroquois speech events" by Michael K Foster (1974). It's in the Webster Library. Note however these versions are quite Christianized, reflecting the times (19th and 20th centuries) and place (Ontario).

For a discussion about the Opening, see "Spoken here : travels among threatened languages" written by Mark Abley (2003), the Montreal Gazette reporter. This book contains a chapter on the Mohawk language entitled "The words that come before all else." This chapter reveals a significant number of interviews and explains some of the difficulties translating Mohawk into English.

Another source that explains this difficulty is the film series "Milennium" which Jonathon has in his possession at the moment.

My favorite source is my old classmate Jimmy Gilbert who describes the difference as that between color TV and black & white. He also compares listening to Mohawk being like eating three-flavored ice-cream, while listening to English is like eating vanilla.

At a later time, should the occasion arise, I would like to take the risk of saying a few words about the last Friday's version.