Thomas R. Porter
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Thomas R. Porter (Sakokwenionkwas-“The One Who Wins”) is the founder, spokesperson, and spiritual leader of the Mohawk Community of Kanatsiohareke (Ga na jo ha lay gay) located in the Mohawk Valley near Fonda, New York in 1993. He is a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. (Akwesasne, also known as the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, straddles the New York State/Canadian border near Massena, New York.) He is married to Alice Joe Porter who is Choctaw, and has six children.
Currently, Mr. Porter works as the Native American consultant for the New York State Penitentiary System and as Chaplain for all of the Native inmates in the New York State Penal System. His office is located in Albany, New York, but he travels all over the state to meet with Native inmates. He confers with them, teaches and helps them conduct traditional ceremonies.
He was the director and educator at the Akwesasne Freedom School and taught at the Kahnawake Survival School. He offered instruction in Mohawk language, philosophy and history at both schools as well as carpentry at Kahnawake. The purpose of both institutions was to teach the usual subject matter within a traditional Mohawk worldview, with emphasis on maintaining the Mohawk language as alive and vital. It is said that the loss of language is most often accompanied by a significant loss of a people’s culture and identity.
Mr. Porter held the position of sub-chief for the Tehanakarine Chieftainship title, one of the nine chief titles of the Mohawk Nation, for 21 years (1971-1992). Chiefs are considered to be both spiritual and political leaders. Some of the duties of that position were: officiating at marriage ceremonies, death ceremonies and numerous other traditional ceremonies held throughout the year as well as long term planning for the Nation.
Mr. Porter worked as Secretary for the Mohawk Nation Council of Chiefs for 8 years and as interpreter for 11 years. He is still called on to assist in the affairs of the Mohawk Nation.
Mr. Porter organized the “White Roots of Peace”, a cultural traveling group created to revitalize Native traditions and beliefs in North America. He was its main speaker and lectured for the group at various universities and colleges throughout the United States and Canada.
Mr. Porter has authored various books and pamphlets, all of which teach about Mohawk traditions and spirituality. Most of them are available through the Craft Store at Kanatsiohareke. They are:
- Tsiniionkwarihotons Clanology
- O:nenhste (Corn)
- Drum and Rattle Making
- Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen (The Thanksgiving Address)
- Mohawk Marriage
- Traditional Mohawk Clothing
- Akwesasne Mohawk Social Dances
- And Grandma Said...Iroquois Teachings
Achievements and honors
The following is partial list of the achievements and honors he has been awarded:
Rothko Chapel Award for commitment to truth and freedom. Rothko Chapel is an international organization based in Houston, Texas.
1992 Human Rights Award, Earth Action. “In gratitude for your outstanding service and love on behalf of our world.”
The Twenty-First Gamaliel Chair in Peace and Justice Award, which “recognizes individuals who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of peace and justice”. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It states that Tom Porter “serves as an exemplary role model displaying courage, sensitivity and ambition giving selflessly of his time, energy and intellect to improving the welfare of the Mohawk nation,” He “personifies the finest attributes of leadership and integrity.” This award is given once a year to someone in the world who is then asked to spend a month hosting dinners, giving speeches and answering questions about, in this case, Native spirituality.
NYS Division of the Budget – Striving For Unity In Diversity. In appreciation for your participation in the Native American Heritage Month Program
Indian of the Year Award for outstanding contributions to Native people and for the betterment of all people. Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, an organization based in New York City, dedicated to promoting cultural awareness and raising scholarship funds for Native scholars. 2001
Honored by Lotus Music and Dance. New York, New York. For his “Lifelong and Tireless Efforts To Keep the Spiritual Traditions, Language and Culture of the Longhouse People, Vital and Alive.”
Cornell University. Ithaca, New York. “American Indian Millennium 2001 – Cornell University Recognizes Tom Porter For His Dedication To the Protection of Native Lifeways.”
Bergen County College Native American Heritage Award, “In recognition of your contributions to Native American Heritage and to enhance intercultural understanding.”
Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council, “In recognition of your life’s work in your language.”
Cayuga Correctional Facility, “The Haudenosaunee Community presents Sakokwenionkwas, “The One Who Wins”, with this certificate of appreciation. Our deepest appreciation goes out to you for your religious instructions and insight provided at many ceremonies which teaches us the value and importance of the oral tradition as People of the Longhouse.”
Traditional Arts in Upstate New York – North Country Heritage Award, “for mastery of and creative commitment to local traditions, customs and arts and for dedication to community and to the teaching of others.”
American Indian Community House, New York City, “The Board of Directors of American Indian Community House Inc. wishes to express our sincere gratitude for your service and dedication to American Indian and Alaska People. We, at our Honoring the Spirit Event, do hereby resolve to recognize and honor the spirit by which you have significantly contributed Native American Culture,
He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trent University in Petersborough, Canada for his contributions as an Indigenous cultural educator, elder and spiritual leader.
- "A Traditional Mohawk's View of Reality". Keene State College. 2011-11-28. http://www.keene.edu/news/stories/detail/1339005076426/. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Kay Olan (2011-06-16). "Kanatsiohareke, Language and Survival". Indian Country Today Media Network. http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/opinion/kanatsiohareke%2C-language-and-survival-38706. Retrieved 2013-02-08.
- Linda Van Slyke (2010-05-10). "Kanatsiohareke: Who is Tom Porter's family? - Albany Interfaith Spirituality". Examiner.com.