Josephy (Sosé) Onasakenrat ❖
Joseph Onasakenrat was a Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) from Oka, Quebec. He was born just after the Rebellions in1845. Also known as Sosé Onasakenrat, he studied early on to be a priest at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal, and when he returned to Oka he was appointed as secretary of the Sulpician mission.
Onesakenrat was able to speak English, Mohawk and French, and in 1868 he was elected chief of the Kanesatake community. Immediately he went to Ottawa to meet with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Onasakenrat petitioned the government to return the land to the Mohawks which was, at the time, held by the Sulpicians. He had learned that the Sulpicians had changed the terms of an earlier land grant deed, and they were no longer just “holding the land in trust for the Mohawk” but they were selling it off to settlers.
Onasakenrat accused the seminary of exploiting the natives and of intentionally keeping them poor. The bishop threatened to excommunicate anyone involved in the petition, prompting Onasakenrat, along with most of the Mohawk community, to leave the Catholic Churchand convert to Methodism.
Onasakenrat demanded that the Sulpicians leave Oka. The priests refused to leave, and instead obtained a warrant for his arrest. Years later he and other Protestant Mohawks were accused of burning the Catholic church. After both arrests Onasakenrat was release as not guilty.
A devoutly religious man, Onasakenrat himselft became an ordained Methodist minister in 1880, and worked to translate religious works into the Mohawk language.
French (If available)