Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Akouessen or Ohquese

Q: My many times great-grandfather lived in Montreal (Ville Marie), Huronia and Longueuil, Quebec circa 1640-1685. He was called Akoussen and Ohquese which I understood to mean ‘Partridge’ but have recently found out that the partridge did not exist in North America at that time. Do you know of any books or stories that involve or explain that term in the Mohawk, Onondaga or general Iroquois history?

A: Thank you for writing. There weren't partridge in North America but there were grouse, which were called "partridge" in a lot of early colonial literature, and the Mohawk word for grouse is very similar to what you describe, ahkwesen (pronounced similar to ah-kway-sun, with a half pronounced N sound at the end.) Since the letters "ou" were commonly used to spell "w" sounds in French, it seems likely to me that this word was the source of both the spellings you gave. The Oneida word for grouse is also similar, Ohkwe:sv: (pronounced oh-kway-sun-- the "v" is usually written upside down, which I'm unable to accomplish with this font!) The Onondaga word for grouse is completely different, however (nų:nya:gae'i.)

Hope that's interesting to you, have a good day!

Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Mohawk pronunciation
Oneida pronunciation
Iroquois Indians
Grouse symbolism

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mohawk Spelling

Q: Hi, I was wondering if you could help me with the proper spelling for the word family in the Mohawk language. I was told it was spelt Akwahtsire but I just want to make sure because I am working on a project for my children who are Mohawk.

A: There is no single correct way to spell Mohawk words, because Mohawk wasn't traditionally a written language. Using the two Mohawk orthographies (spelling systems) we're familiar with, it's either Akhwatsire or Akhwá:tsire. But there's nothing really wrong with the spelling you're using, Akwahtsire, either. It's definitely recognizable to a Mohawk speaker.

Hope that helps, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
Mohawk language
Mohawk Indians
Mohawk alphabet