Flying the Mi'kmaq flag

 

Why the university ought to permanently install the Mi'kmaq flag on campus

On Friday, September 30th, the Mi’kmaq flag was raised to honour Mi’kmaq History Month. While it is wonderful to have the flag up to recognize October as Mi’kmaq History Month, I believe it should be up all year. I am not alone in this belief, and I feel that it is hard to write about this issue because it is not just my story, but our story - from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives.  

With the flag up, it helps us to recognize that we are treaty partners and through this, we take a step towards reconciliation.  I want to share my perspective on why I believe the Mi’kmaq flag is important and why it should be installed permanently on campus.  

 Mi'kmaq flag flying outside the President's office. Photo: Devon Chisholm. 

Mi'kmaq flag flying outside the President's office. Photo: Devon Chisholm. 

The Mi’kmaq Flag is known as Sante’ Mawiomi; it represents the Mi’kmaq people in the territory, recognizing the alliances and the meaning of the Grand Council.  The Grand Council is part of our traditional government, which has played an important role in treaty negotiations since settler populations first arrived in Mi’kma'ki. 

The Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag gives me a sense of belonging.  I am from the We’komaq First Nation community, where the Mi’kmaq flag is permanently installed. When I see the Flag I see the importance of reclaiming my language and culture. It shows me my history, the history of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and recognizes our relationships with the Catholic Church and the Government.  

The Mi’kmaq flag on campus gives me a sense of hope that my future generations will feel that they can come to school, feel accepted, and know that their opinions matter. I asked Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy and his sister Margaret Poulette, (both recognized elders and residential school survivors) what the Mi’kmaq Flag means to them. They both said, “It means that we are recognized.”   

Being recognized is important to many First Nation people, because throughout history, particularly in formal academic settings, Indigenous people have not been not recognized as part of the fabric of Canada. 

Furthermore, Canada has been built through subjecting Aboriginal people to cultural genocide. By recognizing this territory and recognizing our people, it sends an important message that we can heal together as a community and nation, and someday heal the world.  

I want to recognize that there are many people learning about the true history of my people and beginning to understand that we are working hard to reclaim our dying language and culture, but that we can do more. Saint Francis Xavier University has put up the Mi’kmaq Flag for the month of October for Mi’kmaq history month. It has filled myself and many others with pride, and we feel that we are truly part of this University.  

Yet it is only for a month, and I feel it only represents the Indigenous people and our territory for a month, when we are here all year round trying hard to become “properly” educated for our communities. 

 “Why is it so hard to keep the Mi’kmaq flag up?” is the main question I have heard from others, but have not been able to find an answer to. I do not know the proper policy to keep a flag up, but I hope to bring more awareness to others who know the policies, and are able to implement them on our beautiful campus at StFX. 

Saint Francis Xavier University is known as a space where great learning takes place and as an institution that is diverse, welcoming people from all over the world. It is also a place that is situated within Mi’kmaw territory, or Mi’kma'ki, and I believe it would be an act of reconciliation to acknowledge this territory permanently, by flying the flag of this territory year round.

To see that I and other Mi’kmaq students, or other Aboriginal visitors to this territory, can go to a school where the flag of the Indigenous territory flies year round would be an honor. I hope one day to see the Mi’kmaq flag flying next to the Canadian Flag, because we need to recognize that we are all treaty people and that we need to continue listening and learning from each other.

Click here to sign our petition to keep the Mi'kmaq flag up year round at StFX.