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Onerahtókha Karlie Marquis named executive director of Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Finance grad uses Concordia knowledge to serve her community
April 19, 2021
By Samantha Rideout, GrDip 10

Onerahtókha Karlie Marquis stand in front of a Kahnawake banner Onerahtókha Karlie Marquis says cultural teachings and formal studies prepared her for her new role.

Onerahtókha Karlie Marquis, BComm 16, has always felt connected to Kahnawake, her home south of Montreal.

Although she enrolled in the Department of Finance with the goal of serving the ancestral Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory and its 8,000 residents, Marquis was amazed when she was recently appointed executive director of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK).

“It’s exciting but also very humbling,” says the 32-year-old John Molson School of Business graduate.

Kahnawake is one of the eight communities that make up the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) Nation | Photo: The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake

Ready to make a difference

In her new role, Marquis will assume responsibility for the administration and day-to-day operations of the council’s programs and employees.

Marquis first started working for the MCK as a student. Over the next few years, she progressed from financial clerk to financial analyst, financial manager and, eventually, business development manager. In the process, she built relationships with people from the council’s 15 departments, including Environmental Protection, Justice Services and Recreation.

“Everything has a budget and financial implications,” Marquis says. “The finance world really opened up every aspect of the organization for me.”

Marquis is hoping that her new mandate will give her the chance to address certain issues. For instance, in her early 20s, she analyzed the community’s educational statistics for a class project and saw that the graduation rate was going down.

“I also noticed that [youth] sports didn’t have as many fans in the arena and it was harder to find coaches to volunteer,” she says. “Those sorts of things bothered me. When this job popped up, I realized I had the opportunity to bring those issues out and try to turn them around.”

There are several reasons why Marquis feels ready to take on her new responsibilities. First, she points to her upbringing. Between learning from her family and attending elementary school on the territory, she absorbed the values of her culture.

“We are Onkwehón:we [Indigenous] people who are here to take care of each other. Our Mohawk values are a really good foundation for making sound, smart, collective decisions.”

Marquis enrolled in the Department of Finance with the goal of serving the ancestral Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory and its 8,000 residents.

A worthwhile experience at Concordia

Her studies at John Molson equipped her further, she says.

“Although the MCK is a not-for-profit organization, all the classes I attended were applicable to its mission. You have to know about communications and how to solicit buy-in from your community. You need to learn about organizational behaviour and personal relationships. And, obviously, finance and accounting.”

Marquis acknowledges that due to the history of settler colonialism in Canada, many Indigenous people have negative associations with educational institutions. For her own part, she feels largely positive about her Concordia experience, although she was surprised that many students and even some professors didn’t know about the existence of Kahnawake.

“It’s 15 minutes away!” she laughs. “Even so, I think Concordia is doing a great job of trying to understand the fears and issues that Native people can face, as well as their cultures.

“I would often go the Otsenhákta Student Centre and see my friends there, along with councillors from Kahnawake. You can see that it’s important to Concordia to make Native youth feel more comfortable, knowing that sometimes going into the city where there’s a different way of life is a really big deal and a big change.”

For Marquis, that change was well worth it.

“Widening your worldview has benefits. A lot of the people around me [in Kahnawake] had said, ‘If you want to get involved, you need to have a background in finance.’ I’m glad to bring that back to my community.”


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