Thomas R. Porter (Sakokweniónkwas or “the one who wins”), is a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, an Iroquois territory located on the St. Lawrence River. He is married to Alice Joe Porter who is Choctaw. He has six children and eleven grandchildren. Mr. Porter was acting Bear Clan Chief in the traditional longhouse movement, opposite the state-sanctioned Tribal Council and has served numerous positions on the Mohawk Nation of Chiefs Council for over 25 years.
Tom Porter is one of the last generation of his people to be raised as a Mohawk speaker from birth. Like his ancestors, who listened to traditional stories during the long winter months by the fire, Tom was weaned on the teachings of his great-grandparents’ and his grandparents’ generation. This unique background paved the way for him to become a champion for the revitalization of First Nations languages and traditions. Now a respected elder, he has devoted his life to educating both Native and non-Native people about the true history, culture and spirituality of the Iroquois or, as they prefer to call themselves, the Haudenosaunee. In the words of his cousin, author and award-winning journalist Doug George—Kanentiio, “He has, over the past four decades, become one of the most respected cultural teachers among the Iroquois, a spiritual leader welcome across the continent for his sincerity, wit and knowledge.”
Mr. Porter has been a nationally recognized figure in Indian Country since the 1960s when he co-founded the White Roots of Peace, a group of Iroquois Elders who toured the country sharing traditional teachings and encouraging Indians to embrace their respective Native traditions. Recognizing that Mohawk language and culture were dying out, he also co-founded the Akwesasne Freedom School for grades K-8, with a curriculum entirely in Mohawk.
Since 1993, Tom has been the founder, director and spiritual leader of the traditional Mohawk Community of Kanatsioharè:ke, located in the homeland of his ancestors, near Albany, New York. For the story of that community and how it came to be, see his previous book, Tom Sakokwenionkwas Porter: Kanatsiohareke: Traditional Mohawk Indians Return to Their Ancestral Homeland.
In 2008, Tom Porter published the book And Grandma Said… Iroquois Teachings, in which we get to see in print a lifetime of teachings and memories, in words direct from the heart of, in Doug George’s words, “a person who has devoted his life to preserving the heritage of his Nation & Iroquois Culture. For more information, visit www.mohawkcommunity.com