STEVE HENHAWK: My name is Steve Henhawk. That's my Christian name, I guess. But my name, what was given to me by my grandmother, is [GUYOHKOHNYO]. What that means in Guyohkohnyo, in our language, it talks about the edge of the sky. And that's the name that she had given me. My role here at Cornell is I've been asked to introduce some culture, some of our language.
I'll translate it. I'll turn my words around. If you want to understand our language, the first thing that you really need to understand is who we are and the way that we believe because our language is deeply entrenched in our beliefs. Our language is connected to the land, to what we do. And that's why it's important that it happens here because this is where it all began. This is where Cayugas, Guyohkohnyo, this is where it started was here-- [SPEAKING GUYOHKOHNYO] here in these lands here.
This here, these lands, this is the land of my mother's people. And the language that I speak, that's the language of my mother's people. So in order to fully understand our language, you need to understand those people, our people, the way that we talk. And that's what we call it, we call it sanigohagwé go geh. It's hard to translate it or some people say, oh, that's your culture, that's your thing.
But no, uh-uh. That's not what it is. It's sanigohagwé go geh. Really [GUYOHKOHNYO], really what that means is, the way that we believe. What we believe in and our belief is this connection to the earth. We believe in everything that is this natural world here. For so long here, it's like we're a history lesson. And that history lesson, it wasn't even told right. It was told from somebody else's point of view. That's why it's so important right now for us to, for me to, take this opportunity. And I got to seize the opportunity.
Thanks for listening to me.
STUDENTS: [SPEAKING GUYOHKOHNYO]
STEVE HENHAWK: Yeah.
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For the first time in Cornell’s 154-year history, students this year can take a class to learn the language of the Cayuga Nation, whose traditional territory is now home to Cornell’s Ithaca campus. One instructor is Stephen Henhawk, a Cayuga speaker and historian.