Honoring someone whose legacy is vast is a difficult task. Words cannot express Eddie Aronhie:nens Cross’ far-reaching impact on Kahnawà:ke education.
Blessed with an extraordinary vision for education’s future and a passion for teaching, Eddie dedicated his life to Kahnawà:ke Education for 45 years. His passion for education began at home. Eddie’s love for his siblings led him to bring them to school every day on his bicycle. When their physical circumstances became insurmountable and they were unable to attend classes, he began to feel all of Kahnawà:ke’s special needs children should have access to education within the community. Thus, he embarked on his teaching career in 1966, bringing culturally relevant curriculum into his classroom. His career evolved, with roles such as a Guidance Counselor, Curriculum Coordinator, Principal for 11 years, and a KCSC appointment to Director of Instructional Services. Eddie then took on the role as Director of Education for 23 years, retiring on June 30, 2011; the culmination of an extraordinary career.
Eddie worked tirelessly throughout the 1980s to establish Kanien’kéha language and immersion programs in the schools. He collaborated with community organizations and with McGill University to launch Kahnawà:ke’s first Teacher Training Program, with participants completing the program receiving an Aboriginal Literacy Certificate. Today, the program has evolved into the Ratiwennahní:rats Language Program overseen by Kanien'kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitióhkwa Language & Cultural Center.
Eddie collaborated with Kateri Memorial Hospital to develop and implement the Kahnawà:ke School Diabetes Program that is still functioning within KEC elementary schools today. The program and its research ethics policy are well renowned across Canada.
As First Nation Education Council representative for Kahnawà:ke, Eddie lobbied with other representatives to secure funding for special education. As a result, Indigenous Services Canada granted permanent funding for special education programs and services in First Nations schools across Canada. Eddie would have been particularly proud of an accomplishment that he dreamed of from childhood, yet never boasted of his achievements.
Working alongside the first KEC Director, Mike Diabo, the two became a small but mighty KEC team with additional support staff. They, along with the KCSC, brought together a large focus group to develop the first Blueprint for Education. The KEC Blueprint remains a key component that sets a firm foundation and direction for Kahnawà:ke Education.
“Eddie was admired for his commitment to improving education in First Nations communities. Today, Kahnawà:ke is reaping the rewards of the groundwork he laid in order to ensure we had First Nations control of First Nations education. Communities across Quebec and Canada have also benefited from Eddie’s work to improve education standards at a national level. I consider myself fortunate to have worked alongside Eddie and have always considered him my mentor. I believe I speak for many who had the opportunity to work with Eddie that our hearts are heavy at this time.” Robin Delaronde, Director of Education
The Kahnawà:ke Education Center and the Kahnawà:ke Combined Schools Committee extend their deepest sympathies on the loss of an educator, husband, father, family man, and friend.