Jake Thomas
Learning Centre

Jake Thomas
Learning Centre

Our Centre & Founders

Over 40 years Traditional Experiential Learning Environment

Jake Thomas Learning Centre, Six Nations of the Grand River, Canada

Preservation & Promotion of Traditional Haudenosaunee ways through Language & Artesan Workshops


To establish a historical and current Library Resource Centre whereby  educators from all over the world can come to research and learn first  hand about the history and development of the Iroquoian people.

To carry on educational programs in order to promote the knowledge of  Iroquoian culture and language through research, education and  publication and distribution of books, papers, reports, periodicals and  pamphlets, and to provide funds to charitable organizations which carry  on such educational programs.

To design, develop and maintain a Language Development Program  whereby all aspects of the Iroquoian Language can be preserved and  taught to all age groups.

Current Project: What does the Jake Thomas archival project consist of?
We are in the process of digitizing the Jake Thomas Collection. The  Collection consists of over 90,000 hand written documents in languages  such as Onondaga, Cayuga, and Mohawk. The documents include Great Law  recitals, condolence ceremonies, Code of Handsome Lake, Thanksgiving  Address, and many other important speeches and ceremonies.

So far our team has scanned and edited approximately 2,500 documents of  the 90,000 document Collection. Other accomplishments we have achieved  are; restocking our inventory with 50 packages of Mohawk for Beginners,  50 packages of the Great Feather Dance, 50 packages of Mohawk Verb  Roots. All are available at the Jake Thomas Learning Centre. The package  includes a CD and a book to read along with. We also have 3 copies of  the 1994 Great Law Recital which is a 12 DVD collection that has the  whole 7 day recital in sound as well as picture. This was the last Great  Law Recital by the late Jake Thomas.

Where we are heading?
Our main goal of this project is to digitize the Jake Thomas Collection.  We would like to make all of the material from the Jake Thomas  Collection accessible on the internet. This is a very big project which  is going to take awhile to finish but after it is done it will not only  benefit the Jake Thomas Learning Centre but also our whole community.  The Jake Thomas Collection is one of the largest archive of native  traditions in the world.

We would like to thank our many volunteers especially young individuals  who need to perform community service to not only help out with our  current projects but also to help out with any work whether it be  outside or inside the office. All of our volunteers work hard and are  willing to do whatever is asked of them. Yvonne makes the Jake Thomas Learning Centre a great place for young individuals to develop good work habits and on the job experience.

Note: The Jake Thomas Learning Centre is a non profit charity with Revenue Canada. 

Jacob (Jake) Ezra Thomas

The late Chief Jacob E. Thomas, co-founder of the Jake Thomas Learning Centre, Canada

Hadajigre:ta' (Desending-Cloud) 1922 - 1998

The late Jacob "Jake" Thomas was a leading proponent and interpreter  of Iroquoian culture: craftsman, condoled Cayuga Chief, longhouse  speaker or official "faithkeeper", singer, preacher of the Code of  Handsome Lake, master of the Condolence Ceremony, authority on the Great  Law of Peace.

Cayuga Chief, Orator, Language Advocate and Artist. Jake was a Hereditary Cayuga Chief, and a member of the Sandpiper Clan.  As a speaker and advocate of the five original (Onondaga, Cayuga,  Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca) Hodenosaunee Hodin/hs/:ni 608* languages, Jake  became a proponent and interpreter of Iroquoian culture through his  roles as interpreter, teacher, and orator throughout the Six Nations  communities.

He was a well respected cultural leader, craftsman, singer, dancer, orator, and medicine man ritualist-ceremonialist who founded two institutions mandated for the maintenance of cultural integrity among the Iroquois, worked as a Museum Curator, and an Assistant Professor with the Department of Native Studies at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

Jake handmade many different types of arts objects to support and  preserve the oral tradition of passing on the longhouse speeches he  learned to recite during his life time, including explanations of  international agreements between the Hodenosaunee 608*, neighbouring nations and colonizing nations in North America.

Facing a critical era in language and cultural attrition among the  Iroquois, Jake dedicated a lifetime to instilling the importance of  Hodenosaunee 608* world view - one person’s commitment to local culture as well as public awareness of Native contributions to society at large –  particularly a message of environmental consciousness through  Ganohonyonk Ganóh/ny/hk 631* (Thanksgiving Address), moral and prophetic  message through Gaiwhiio Gaihwi:yo: 631* (the Code of Handsome Lake) and through Gaianarhi kowa Gayan+hsra`gó:wah 642* (the Great Law of Peace) among others.

*English-Cayuga Cayuga-English Dictionary, 2002

The Chief Jake Thomas Room - Trent University

The Jake Thomas Room, located in room 345 in the Enweying  Building/Gzowski College is named in honour of Chief Jake Thomas. Chief Thomas was a condoled Cayuga chief who taught Iroquoian culture, tradition and history and the Mohawk language at Trent during the 1980’s. He was one of the first Indigenous Elders to be granted tenure on the basis of traditional knowledge. The room contains an exhibition of wampum belts that he made to teach about Iroquois political theory.

The Condolence Cane

Each year at Trent University’s convocation ceremony, while members of the Trent community and their families look on, the Condolence Cane makes its annual appearance at the head of the faculty procession. A gift to the University from the Trent Aboriginal Education Council, this replica Cane was carved by the late Chief Jake Thomas of the Cayuga Nation, who was also a Trent Professor. It is a symbolic representation of the governance structure of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse). 

Find out more

Yvonne Thomas

Yvonne Thomas,co-founder, of the Jake Thomas Learning Centre, Six Nations of the Grand River, Canada

Kanhotonkwas (It-Opens-The-Door) Seneca Nation, Snipe Clan

Yvonne was the closest collaborator to and supporter of her late husband, celebrated Cayuga Hereditary Chief and culture-bearing Elder, Jacob (Jake) Thomas. Yvonne worked along side Chief Thomas for over 25 years as he fostered and enriched traditional Haudenoshaunee (Iroquoian)  culture.

As co-founder and principal administrator for Jake Thomas Learning Centre (JTLC), Yvonne collaborated on the creation and implementation of the JTLC’s core projects and programs, which included on and off site language classes, traditional lifestyle-knowledge workshops and a publication roster featuring hundreds of titles. Often working behind the scenes, Yvonne helped record, transcribe, preserve and catalogue much of the JTLC’s irreplaceable cultural collection. A gifted culture-bearer in her on right, Yvonne has given lectures and  demonstrations of institutions like the Iroquois Indian Museum (New  York), the Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), and the McMichael Canadian Collection (Kleinburg).

Yvonne continues to provide leadership and creative direction as she carries on the JTLC’s mission to preserve and promote traditional  Haudenoshaunee ways. She is the Centre’s greatest asset, working  tirelessly as executive director, principal administrator, fundraiser  and organizer-facilitator of the Centre’s core projects and programs.

Amid these immeasurably valuable outreach activities, Yvonne also  accepts public speaking engagements and maintains and operates a large mobile display in order to bring the JTLC’s work to Native culture conferences, pow-wows and other special events.

Yvonne’s many other skills and abilities include: Accredited native language teacher with 15 years experience. She has taught for organizations like Mohawk College, Trent University, the Iroquoian Institute and Indian, Northern Affairs Canada, and the Jake Thomas Learning Centre.

Able to read, write and speak Mohawk fluently, functionally literate in Cayuga, Onondaga and Oneida. Traditional counselor and healer for over 15 years, able to conduct healing circles, sweats and other culture specific counseling activities.

Qualified cultural consultant with an excellent understanding of Haudenoshaunee traditional teachings and ceremonies. Provided professional services to cultural and educational institutions like the Six Nations Woodland Cultural Centre, the North American Indian  Traveling College, and the Brantford Education District.

Extensive hands-on experience with special events organization and co-ordination. Experienced public speaker

Other accomplishments include:

* Published 2013 Reprint of Teachings from the Longhouse 

* Elder and guest speaker for Dodem Kanonhsa-INAC Toronto and Kumik Lodge, Hull QC

* Community Counsel Member for Three Fires Justice Program

* Artesan, Exhibitor and Presenter of Traditional Iroquois Art/Culture

* Lecture/demonstrate at Iroquois Indian Museum (NY), Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago), McMichael Canadian Collection (Kleinburg ON), Museum of the American Indian, NYC

* Native Language Diploma Certificate with University of Western Ontario

* Created and implemented core programs for the Jake Thomas Learning Centre, an independent experiential centre on Onkwehonwe peoples  

* Caretaker of the Jake Thomas archival digital collection; Cayuga, English, Mohawk and Onondaga languages.

Teachings from the Longhouse book

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