With the support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, TTO says they created the Learning With Tsitha (LWT) project to strengthen and expand the reach of its existing language and cultural programming, and create new digital learning resources for children.
According to TTO, tsitha.ca offers animated stories and word games that help children with cultural identification, word recognition, pronunciation, grammar, spelling and math. “The site is intended to help families find identity and lifelong learning and enjoyment in the Kanyen’kehá:ka language and culture,” said a statement from the organization.
“Since our soft launch in the summer, limited to the Tyendinaga area, we’ve had 1,200 users, with a 35 per cent return rate,” said Callie Hill, Executive Director of TTO. “Our audience grows daily with users in all Kanyen’kehà:ka communities and cities where we have Kanyen’kehà:ka.”
The site’s main character is a young Mohawk girl named Tsitha, which means “little bird.” TTO said they believe Tsitha can become a recognizable brand in Kanyen’kehà:ka communities, and the face of an expanding repertoire of language and cultural learning materials.
“With the proper support, Tsitha can replicate the success of a show like Dora the Explorer within Kanyen’kehà:ka and for Kanien’kéha communities,” said Carman Maracle, the project’s Creative Director. “With the assets created for Tsitha, TTO is well-positioned to produce a range of print materials, social media assets, and merchandise in support of Tsitha branding and a Tsitha Tales TV series.”
There are three animated Tsitha Tales shorts currently available on the website: The Missing Lake, The Beginning, and Atí:ron Shares the Strawberries.
Two young first language speakers from Tyendinaga contribute as voice actors in the series — Tsyora’séhstha Brant as Tsítha; and Yakowén:nare Brant as Tsyanì:to. Other voice actors include Tahohtharátye Joe Brant, the father of the sisters who play Tsítha and Tsyanì:to, and Karihwawíhson Joe Brown.
“We have developed a surplus of creative material, original and traditional, that can drive a series. The template for the series is established and our production team is in place. It is something we will definitely pursue,” Maracle said.
Hill also noted that vigorous language and cultural learning enhances a child’s positive realization of identity, and supports healthy development, one of the primary goals of LWT.
“Our language and culture is at a critical state in our communities. The challenge for us is to counteract, in fun and creative ways, the disconnect many of our young people have with their Kanien’kéha heritage, language and community. LWT is a big step.”
TTO noted that all learning materials and program initiatives created for this project will be utilized as permanent resources for their ongoing activities, and drive efforts to engage children in language and cultural learning that support emotional strengths and social well-being.
Resources produced under the TTO initiative will be shared with all Kanyenke’háka speaking communities, they said, which exist in seven different regions within Ontario, Quebec and New York.