Indigenous Community

October is Mi’kmaq History Month

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October is Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia. Mi’kmaq History Month builds awareness of Mi’kmaq history and heritage, and celebrates Mi’kmaq culture.

In 1993, Premier John Savage and Mi’kmaw Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy declared October as the official month to recognize and celebrate Mi’kmaw culture and heritage.

October 1, Treaty Day, marks the beginning of Mi'kmaq History Month. There are a variety of events occurring this month on campus and all across Nova Scotia.

Here are some of the events taking place on campus:

  • A tour at the art gallery of #callresponse on Wednesday, October 3 at 12 p.m.

  • The SMU Indigenous Blanket Exercise on Friday, October 5 at 10 a.m.

  • The Mi'kmaq Flag Raising taking place on Thursday, October 11 at 12 p.m.

For more information on events taking place across campus, visit the SMU events calendar.

The complete list of events occurring across Nova Scotia can be found on the Mi’kmaq History Month events calendar. More information on the month can be found here.

Dr. Val Marie Johnson helps repatriate Inuit cultural materials in the Northwest Territories

 Dr. Val Marie Johnson

Dr. Val Marie Johnson

Earlier this month, with funding from the Saint Mary's University Dean of Research and Dean of Arts, Dr. Val Marie Johnson—of the newly created Department of Social Justice & Community Studies—undertook a Community Research Outreach trip to Inuvik and Aklavik, in the homelands of the Inuvialuit and Gwich’in peoples in the Northwest Territories.

The principal purpose of Dr. Johnson’s trip was to share with community members her historical research on Shingle Point Eskimo Residential School, which operated in the region from 1929 to 1936, and to negotiate the return of copies of archival material documenting the School’s students and staff.

The materials shared with community members included many photos of the School’s students and staff, students’ colouring and drawings, staff and student letters, and School records on students. Dr. Johnson discovered the material in her research on relations between white women staff and Inuvialuit, Inuinnait, Iñupiat, and Gwich’in students and staff at the School.

"It's the living history of this region," Dr. Johnson told CBC North Radio while she was in Inuvik. "My desire is to have this material accessible to people whose living history this involves, as much as possible."

This cultural repatriation of the material is being arranged by collaboration between Dr. Johnson, the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod Archives in Toronto, where the material is now housed, and the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre in Inuvik. The Anglican Church operated the School.

Dr. Johnson also visited with community Elders and descendants of former Shingle Point students, and hosted community events in Inuvik and Aklavik about her research, the materials, and the plans for their new accessibility to community members in the region.

Raymond Sewell joins Saint Mary’s as full-time Indigenous Student Advisor

Saint Mary’s University is pleased to announce that Raymond Sewell has joined the university as the institution’s first full-time Indigenous student advisor.

“At Saint Mary’s University, we are committed to improving the educational experience of all our students,” said Saint Mary’s president Robert Summerby-Murray. “In response to our own task force on Indigenous students and the federal report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, we recognize that universities have a significant role to play. We are acting to foster an environment that reflects the important cultures, histories and traditions of Indigenous students.”

The Indigenous student advisor is responsible for supporting and engaging Indigenous students at Saint Mary’s University. Sewell will develop programming and services for Indigenous students; make connections to facilitate the transition of Indigenous students to university; and develop culturally respectful programming to engage Indigenous students in campus life throughout their university career.

Sewell is a Saint Mary’s alumnus who completed his Master of Arts in Atlantic Canada Studies in 2014. From the Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick, Sewell has experienced firsthand the transition from a First Nation’s community to university in a new city.

“For many students coming from Indigenous communities, university can be a big transition. You are leaving behind your community and family and coming to a new city.  It can be a bit of a culture shock,” said Sewell. “Part of my role will be helping students with that change, but also providing more general support to make sure that they have the tools they need to be successful at Saint Mary’s.” 

Sewell will join Saint Mary’s in his new role today, Sept. 18.

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Mawio'mi Indigenous Gathering a Success

  Student Services Senior Director Tom Brophy; Indigenous Students Society Treasurer, Jody Paul, and Co-President, Elora Gehue; Society member Salina Kemp and Elder Billy Lewis.

Student Services Senior Director Tom Brophy; Indigenous Students Society Treasurer, Jody Paul, and Co-President, Elora Gehue; Society member Salina Kemp and Elder Billy Lewis.

Indigenous culture was celebrated today at the inaugural Mawio'mi Indigenous Gathering as part of Saint Mary’s University’s Winter Welcome.

“This is just the first of a series of cultural events that we hope to have here on campus” says Elora Gehue, Co-President of the Saint Mary’s Indigenous Students Society. “We had a really good turnout and I think that this event will serve as a great foundation for the future.”

The event was organized by the Saint Mary’s Indigenous Students Society Co-Presidents Elora Gehue and Boyce Campbell and Student Services Senior Director Tom Brophy. The event featured well-known drumming group Eastern Eagle, a fancy shawl dancer, a jingle dress dancer, a traditional basket weaver and more.  Attendees were also treated to the traditional Mawio’mi dish, fry bread tacos, which was very well received.  

When asked to describe the event, Tom Brophy, Senior Director of Student Services, said the event represented a humble beginning from which he believes many good things will come and he looks forward to continuing to work with the Indigenous Students Society in the future.

Notable Indigenous speakers included Captain Don Julien, Elder Billy Lewis and Sandra Racine, a traditional Mi’kmaq basket weaver. Saint Mary’s President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray was also in attendance and participated in the smudging ceremony and later presented Elder Lewis with an offering of tobacco. Ossama Nasarallah, Vice-President of Student Affairs, was also present and provided a welcome on behalf of the Saint Mary's University Students' Association.

As the event came to a close, an elder prayer was led by Elder Lewis and the Eastern Eagle drumming group finished the event with the Mi’kmaw Honour Song.