In a public celebration held today, Sept. 29, Mount Allison University officially opened Mawita’mkw, a designated Indigenous gathering space on campus.
Mawita’mkw, (a place we can gather) is located in the Wallace McCain Student Centre, and will serve as a learning and gathering space for Indigenous students and community members.
“Having a designated space such as Mawita’mkw will help encourage dialogue and understanding in our University and wider community,” says Doreen Richard, Mount Allison’s Indigenous affairs co-ordinator. “I am excited to continue to work and celebrate with our students and community members in this gathering space.”
The celebration included a flag raising and a smudging, as well as drumming, dancing, and singing followed by a traditional feast.
“In the University’s Year of Indigenous Knowing, we are pleased to dedicate this space to our Indigenous students and to create the opportunities that this will offer to learning and understanding more about our Indigenous peoples and culture,” says University President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Campbell. “I look forward to the many events and opportunities that will come as part of this initiative on campus led by our students, faculty, and staff members, as well as other community members.”
Richard and members of the University’s Indigenous Support Group presented Campbell with an eagle feather, which is considered the highest honour that can be bestowed on an individual.
Mawita’mkw will also be the location for Mount Allison’s first elder-in-residence, Elder Gilbert Sewell from Pabineau First Nation in New Brunswick. Sewell will be available to meet with students, faculty, and community members. Known as a great listener and an even better storyteller, he will also be taking part in the Indigenous studies course and other Indigenous initiatives on campus through the year.
“This is history being made. It took us so long to get into universities,” Sewell says. “The eagle feather represents hope and life for the people. Today is hope and life for our culture. Today is a day of healing.”
2016-17 is the Year of Indigenous Knowing at Mount Allison University. Following the call to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report and Universities Canada’s Principles of Indigenous Education, Mount Allison is working towards curriculum development, increasing opportunities and supports for Indigenous students, and creating learning opportunities for non-Indigenous students and the wider community through a variety of activities and initiatives.
Shayla Gloade of the Millbrook First Nation, NS performs a fancy shawl dance at the opening of Mawita’mkw.
Doreen Richard, centre, and members of the University’s Indigenous Support Group present Dr. Robert Campbell, right, with an eagle feather at the opening of Mawita’mkw.