Four-Year Rite-of-Passage Ceremony Strengthens Two Young Mohawk Women
(Lincoln, Nebraska): Follow the challenging journey of two Mohawk girls as they take part in their traditional passage rites to becoming Mohawk women. Ohero:kon-Under the Husk is a 27-minute documentary that focuses on Kaienkwinehtha and Kasennakohe as they both take part in a four-year adolescent passage rites ceremony called ohero:kon “under the husk” that has been revived in their community.
Ohero:kon-Under the Husk premieres at the imagineNative Festival in Toronto, Oct. 20. The film will release nationally to public television stations Feb. 25, 2017.
Kaienkwinehtha and Kasennakohe are childhood friends from traditional families living in the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne that straddles the U.S./Canada border. The ceremony challenges them spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. It shapes the women they become.
“A lot of who I am now has to do with the way I was when I was out there, what I learned,” Kaienkwinehtha said.
Pre-industrial and pre-colonial contact societies marked and celebrated the various transitions from birth-to-adulthood-to-parenthood-to-old age-to-death. As societies entered the Industrial Age, or were colonialized by emerging industrial societies, these traditions were lost or suppressed. Many anthropologists, such as Margaret Mead in Coming of Age in Samoa (1973) or Barbara Myerhoff in Number Our Days (1978) have commented that the loss of these rituals and celebrations have led to increased anxiety during adolescence (Mead) or for the elderly (Myerhoff) because they no longer have clearly defined expectations for these stages of life. Coming-of-age rituals served this and many other useful functions for all members of a society.
“This ceremony had not been practiced for generations and yet it was able to be revived to strengthen our youth,” said Mohawk Director/Producer Katsitsionni Melissa Fox. “I knew early on [in the ceremony] that something magical was unfolding right in front of me and that it was going to change our community forever. I felt compelled to document and share this story, and I did so through the eyes of two Mohawk girls making their transition into women.”
This rite of passage ceremony was a desperate attempt by Mohawk Clan Mother Louise Herne, to remedy social ills the youth faced, including alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, self-harm, suicide and loss of culture and language.
“There’s a difference between shaming a young girl into her physical transformation versus celebrating her…I like to think of it as an ancestral calling and it’s calling our kids home,” Herne said.
The film documents the revival of the ceremony and how it has grown over the past 10 years, from seven Native youth participants to over 70. It has had a far-reaching effect, with sister communities following suit in these teachings.
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KATSITSIONNI MELISSA FOX (MOHAWK), DIRECTOR/PRODUCER
Katsitsionni Melissa Fox has been making films since 2003. Her credits include: Sacredly Stoked, a short drama related to the traditional uses of tobacco. This film was distributed across Ontario and partially funded by Cancer Care Ontario. Two films which she recently produced, Akwesasne Transcending Borders and Akwesasne the Little Boy were commissioned by community funding agencies. Katsitsionni has personal experience in many of these rites of passage, growing up in the Akwesasne Mohawk territories in northern New York. She has an understanding and respect for these traditions that can only come from being immersed in them all of her life.
VICTORIA CATHERINE CHAN, EDITOR
Born in Montreal, Victoria Catherine Chan graduated in directing at ZeLIG School for Documentary in Italy and is completing the CoLAB Fellowship 2016-2017 at UnionDocs Center for Documentary Arts in New York. Currently based in Brooklyn, she works as a director and editor in creative documentaries and teaches filmmaking in various youth programs. She has recently edited Ohero:kon-Under the Husk, a personal film directed by Katsitsionni Fox and Face of the Deep, a poetic music integrated video by Theodore Wiprud. Her latest film Il Destino di una Fabbrica (2013) was selected at Visions du réel in Nyon and broadcast in Italy. Victoria received a screenwriting fund from SODEC, Quebec’s major film funder, and is working on her first feature film, a dreamlike tale about her journey to reconnect with her Chinese ancestral roots in Canada.
Additional Information Regarding
Ohero:kon-Under the Husk (1/30):
Type of Feed: Station Feed
NOLA Code: HUSK 00 H1
Feed Date/Time: Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017 – 16:30-17:00ET/HD04
Rights: Unlimited releases over 4 years beginning (with feed); SCH/1 year; and non-commercial cable rights granted. Royalty free to members and subscribers of the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).
This program is produced by Two Row Production LLC for a presentation of Vision Maker Media, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Funding for Ohero:kon-Under the Husk was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Vision Maker Media
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