"When I was a child there were a few families in the community who decided they wanted to embrace who they were, including my family," says Niwahkwarita:a, who goes by Niwa. "Back then we had almost no culture left in Tyendinaga." He remembers a few slightly older, strong role models who were making the decision to learn Mohawk and teach their children. "They gave back to their children what was taken," he says. Niwa now speaks to his two-year-old daughter in Mohawk. "I want her to have her own identity. I mean, she's wolf clan, she's got a Mohawk name, she's going to know how to speak Mohawk. Those are all things that make a person strong in who they are." A graduate of Shatiwennakaratats, Tyendinaga's two-year adult immersion program, Niwa now assists in teaching at Kawenna'on:we, Tyendinaga's primary immersion school. "I'm affecting the people who are most important" he says. "If you want to have an impact you have to influence the people who are going to be the future."
Niwa is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who wants to produce an album all in the Mohawk language. In 2011, he participated in The Native Composer Project in Tyendinaga and work-shopped a song he had written about a difficult time in his life, and how his life fits into the order of a greater world. "It's pretty intense," he says. "It's empowering." When asked about the value of translating the song's lyrics here on the site, Niwa said a translation would not be helpful. "When you take it and translate it word for word it might take away from its full meaning," he says. The structure of the language is different, he explains, and a literal translation of the song would not do it justice. "If I wanted to do this song in English, I would have done it in English."