University joins First Nations Caring Society’s Spirit Bear program in support of reconciliation
There’s a new face on the Mount Allison campus this term. The University welcomed its own ‘Ambearrister’ — Maurina — as part of the First Nations Caring Society’s Spirit Bear program.
“We are thrilled to have Maurina on campus as we work towards education and action around reconciliation,” says Patty Musgrave-Quinn, Mount Allison’s Indigenous affairs co-ordinator. “It is an honour to be part of the First Nations Caring Society’s program.”
Arriving on campus just before the holidays, Maurina, a stuffed bear, is named after Maurina Beadle, a Mi’kmaq Elder from Pictou, Nova Scotia. She received her spirit name, meaning Girl of the Wild Flowers, in a ceremony held on campus with Elders from Unamaki and Elsipogtog First Nations communities.
“Through the ceremony, the Elders found that our Maurina is a free spirit, who loves children and being in nature,” explains Musgrave-Quinn. “It was these characteristics that helped bring her namesake. Maurina holds the spirit of the Wi’klatmu’j, who are known as ‘The Little People’ in Mi’kmaw legends. The Wi’klatmu’j have been in Mi’kma’ki for thousands of years and are known as tiny tricksters with magical powers who work to teach us lessons.”
Maurina’s protector and warrior is the Eagle, which represents clarity and love.
With the First Nations Caring Society’s guidance and led by the University’s Indigenous Affairs Office, Maurina will embark on a number of initiatives and events throughout the year in support of reconciliation efforts. These include attending meetings of the University’s Indigenous Advisory Circle and campus events such as smudging ceremonies and gatherings in the University’s Sweat Lodge. Maurina, along with Musgrave, is also taking an introductory class in Mi’kmaq language with instructor Joan Milliea this term.
Along with campus events, Musgrave-Quinn and Maurina have visited local elementary schools to help share the message and teachings of the First Nations Caring Society around reconciliation. Working with Elders and local Knowledge holders, several additional figures have also joined for important events including Winston (Winnie), a fellow stuffed bear companion.
“Our goal as a campus hosting an Ambearrister is to continue the conversation around reconciliation and help educate the University and wider community on Indigenous history issues in Canada in an accessible and meaningful way,” says Musgrave-Quinn. “We are so proud to be partnering with the First Nations Caring Society on this important endeavour.”
Mount Allison community members can find Maurina in the Indigenous Affairs office and at events on campus and in the community throughout the academic year.
About the First Nations Family and Children Caring Society and the Spirit Bear program
The First Nations Family and Children Caring Society, works to ensure the safety and well-being of Indigenous families through education and public policy campaigns. The organization, led by Cindy Blackstock, follows the work of Jordan’s Principle, a child-first principle to ensure First Nations children receive equitable access to health care and other services across Canada.
The organization’s Spirit Bear represents the 165,000 First Nations children impacted by the First Nations child welfare case at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, as well as the thousands of other children who have committed to learning about the case and have taken part in peaceful and respectful actions in support of reconciliation and equity.