TOURISM AN OPPORTUNITY TO EDUCATE VISITORS ABOUT MOHAWK CULTURE
BY CATHERINE WHEELER (NCPR ST. LAWRENCE VALLEY REPORTER)
On a warm day back in September, a small group of people step onto a pontoon boat on the St. Lawrence River, hair blowing in the wind. The sky is blue and the sun sparkles off the water.
“Welcome everyone to Mohawk Journeys. My name is Chessie and I’ll be your tour guide today,” Chessie Thomas tells the boat. Thomas owns Mohawk Journeys, a boat tour company that offers fun days out on the water with family or friends, and now, cultural cruises.
A travel writer from Massena, a tour guide from New York City, and some St. Lawrence University officials all sit on the boat taking in Akwesasne from the water. It’s part of a familiarization tour Akwesasne Travel planned to practice new tours they’ve been working on. But getting on a boat is a common way to show visitors Akwesasne.
Throughout the trip, Thomas shouts out any landmark that she has a story about. It’s nearly constant.
She points out a small, overgrown island on the St. Lawrence River. “This island right here used to have goats on it,” she said. “First there were two goats, and then there were 10 goats.”
Then she shows us the shoreline, where freighters’ wakes are eroding the land. “We’re losing a lot of land each year with bigger boats, no wake zones, things like that,” she said.
This is exactly how Akwesasne Travel wants visitors to learn about who the Mohawk are.