By: Dave Levac
– Excerpts from Amos Key Jr’s Biography
Once you have met Amos Key Jr. you know what he stands for and how he oozes kindness and a good heart. His biography reads like a novel. His early years had challenges, trials and tribulations as many other young people do. He doesn’t shy away from them or hide from them. He remembers them and learns from them. He uses them to move forward together. Together with anyone and everyone. He shares his experiences as a way of building bridges and helps tear down walls. He is a soft spoken and very knowledgeable man.
Tae ho wehs: aka Amos, was born into the Onkwehonweh Civilization and is a member of the Mohawk Nation, gifted into the Turtle Clan of his mother and has been conferred to the Sacred Circle of “Faith Keepers” of the Longhouse, at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. This journey took time and was one of discovery. He always knew where he came from and never denied his culture. He spent time during his life path finding the depth of his connection to his people and Mother Earth.
His first educational experience after High School was attending Mohawk College taking the Communications Arts program majoring in Video and Television, learning about radio and the entertainment sector. That lead to a job on the Six Nations Radio station CKRZ 100.3 FM. That stint led him next to Ryerson in Toronto. In an interview some time ago, he shared that during this period he forgot to focus on his heritage. He tells of a moment when the questions from friends, fellow students and curious strangers awoke his desire to reconnect with his inner self and roots.
Amos told stories about his relatives who went to war, who became community leaders through the Elected Council while maintaining their Longhouse traditions. It opened a path for him to go down that leads us to his many, many accomplishments celebrating, defending and teaching the Aboriginal way life. He studied, learned and is now teaching his language, dance, traditions and Spiritual ways. He is a “Faith Keeper.”
He is an educator and staunch advocate for: First People’s Human, Civil and Linguistic Rights; Social Justice; Decolonization of Indigenous Education. His early educational career started with the London Board of Education as First Nation’s Guidance Councilor and Native Studies Teacher. When he returned home to be the Director of First Nations Languages at Woodland Cultural Centre he created or founded several programs building a vast body of work re-creating, saving, preserving, archiving and teaching First Nations traditions, languages, rituals and ceremonies.
Let’s list just a few of Amos’ activities living his life path:
– Board member- Red Sky Performance (Dance company in Toronto)
– Board member- Facing History, Facing Ourselves Board. Toronto
– Founder & Board member- The Sweetgrass First Nations Language Council Inc.
– Board member- The First Nations, Metis, Inuit Education Association of Ontario
– Founding member- Anishnaabeg, Muskegowuk, Onkwehonweh, Indigenous Language Commission (AMO)
– First Nations Language Director- Woodland Cultural Centre, Brantford
– Professor- Centre for Indigenous Studies, Toronto
– Founder/President, Trustee- Dream Catcher E-Learning Secondary School.
– Indigenous Knowledge Guardian, Conferred by Six Nations Polytechnic
– Founder of Gawenni:yo Immersion/Bilingual School Board, Six Nations.
– Member- Teacher Education Advisory Council- Redeemer University, Hamilton
– Board member- De dwada deh synes Indigenous Health Board, Brantford/Hamilton
– Co-Investigator- Multi yr/Million Dollar SSHRC Grant for research in the Cayuga Language.
– Co-Facilitates- The Glendon Declaration on Languages, York University.
He founded and incubated the award winning and Ontario’s first Indigenous synchronous “Dream Catchers” E-Learning Secondary School. This has proven to be especially important in addressing and correcting the large dropout rate of Indigenous secondary students across the province. He was recently appointed to the University of Toronto’s Centre for Indigenous Studies, to lead courses on Reconciliation and Languages as a “Tenure Tracked” Professor. He has described the “Two Row Wampum” in a slightly different way. He says that he is first and always; Onkwehonweh but he lives in the 21st century so the ship and the canoe of the Wampum is more like a Catamaran with the two floats working and moving forward together.
In addition to his roles within the education and languages area, he led the charge in restoring and refurbishing the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School setting the community in the direction of reconciliation by founding “Save the Evidence” Capital Campaign. Amos is well on his way, with the help and support of many, to help create Canada’s first “Canadian Museum of Conscience.”
To relieve stress, have some fun in his life and satisfy and nourish his ‘alter ego’ with good medicines, Amos still dances as a Men’s Traditional Pow Wow Dancer summer long. He is also an avid singer of Onkwehoweh Ceremonial and Social music.
A gentle man with a heart of gold, Amos has many friends and many more admirers, including this writer. His full and passionate life is far from finished with bringing the cultures together. He genuinely believes we can and must move forward together. He also believes we must know ourselves first. As the song that fits the life of Amos Key Jr./ Tae ho wehs goes…” The Long and Winding Road….” seems to have given us a life to celebrate and the recovery of a language.