Jake Thomas Learning Center Renamed

By: Ross Montour

Permission to reprint article originally published in the Eastern Door Newspaper granted by the author.

Source: Eastern Door Newspaper, Kahnawake Mohawk Territory, Vol. 10 - Number 31, Aug. 31, 2001, pg 11.


For many years before his death in 1998, Jake Thomas was one of the most respected elders of the Cayuga Nation at Six Nations reserve. Known far beyond the boundaries of his own territory for his ceremonial and cultural knowledge and his abilities as an artist, Thomas was often called upon to share that knowledge. In his life, Thomas was to share his knowledge and insights of his people with untold numbers of people.

In his role as Chief in the Cayuga Longhouse and the 12 years he spent teaching at Trent University, Thomas often felt the need to write and record his knowledge on paper so that when his time on this earth was over, there would be a legacy left behind for the people to pick up and carry on to succeeding generations.  Thomas counted it more profitable, in the best sense of the word, to pursue his pastime of writing or carving in his workshop, than to watch a lacrosse or hockey game. For him, the things that drove him were his own form of meditation - a giving and a receiving. Thomas often could be found searching for medicine in the bush, an activity which put him in harmony with nature.

Thomas' knowledge of Native Medicine was, for him, a thing to be shared with his friends. He loved gardening and indeed, Thomas was weeding his garden when he was struck down by a heart attack three years ago.

The Jake Thomas Learning Center is an independent experiential learning center of Iroquoian culture. Founded by Thomas and his wife Yvonne, the center is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Iroquoian culture within his own community and throughout the world.

Since its beginning days in 1993, the center has offered a series of language workshops in Cayuga, Mohawk, and Onondaga as well as traditional teachings. Seminars cover a gamut of traditional knowledge and teachings. The center has also fostered and delivered workshops on various traditional art forms such as rattle-making, wampum bead-making and wampum jewelry-making.

On August 8, 2001, the center was rededicated and renamed the Jake Thomas Memorial Library Resource Center. The center will house a vast inventory of Native specific library materials, an audio-visual center, a language resource center, all of which will be available on 
the Internet.

The Grand River Employment and Training Center recently provided the center with the services of a summer student to re-establish much needed resources and manpower for the Jake Thomas Collection and Building Project. Anyone wishing more information may contact either 
Sonja Greene or Yvonne Thomas at (519) 445-2097 or (519) 445-2423. Or by e-mail at jtlc@worldchat.com  The center also maintains a website at tuscaroras.com

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