For some, it's more than just a flag
Thursday September 7th, 2017 marked a historic day for St. Francis Xavier University. This was the day the University had the Mi’kmaq Flag permanently installed. St. Francis Xavier University is currently settled on unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. For the Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia and the greater east coast of Canada, this ceremony was monumental. There was a great turn out for the event, faculty, students, members of the Mi’kmaq community including, Paktnkek Chief PJ Prosper, Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy, and Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul as well as members of the Antigonish community crowed in Dennis Hall to witness this historic moment. Morgan Charles Toney is a first-year aboriginal student in the jazz studies program here at StFX. Morgan had this to share on how he felt about the installation of the Mi’kmaq Flag. “The ceremony that happened last week at the Coady International Institute was certainly an important day for StFX and also to my Mi’kmaq brothers and sisters. Last week, we all witnessed the unfurling of the Mi’kmaq flag that will be permanently raised here on the StFX University campus. I would like to personally thank Terena Francis (Aboriginal Student Advisor) for asking me to do the smudging ceremony. Smudging is an important practice we do in our culture. Smudging cleanses our mind, purifies our body, and fills the air around us with positivity. What I love about this university is that the Mi’kmaq are very involved here on campus. I met a lot of aboriginal students here and I joined a couple of aboriginal groups. The university, the people, the environment, those three things is what makes me love StFX and events that bring us Mi’kmaq people together is what makes me love this campus a whole lot more. I look forward to the many events to come on campus. Events where we can bring other cultures together, to work as a team, to get to know each other, and most importantly to learn from each other.”
The installation of the Mi’kmaq flag is much more than just any other flag for some. For hundreds of years the aboriginal people of Canada have faced discriminatory practices. The Aboriginal people of Canada have experienced assimilation and were essentially forced adopt the mannerisms of modern society, and to hide their own cultural practices. The raising of the flag, was raising the Mi’kmaq heritage and proudly showing off their nation and culture for everyone to see. Andrew Barker is a StFX alumnus from the graduating class of 1968. Barker is a Mi’kmaq man from the Qalipu First Nation Band in Newfoundland & Labrador, who is currently a member on the band council. I spoke with Barker and he had these statements, “the permanent raising of the Mi'kmaq flag at StFX is a reminder that long before the Scots settled in the highlands of Nova Scotia this was, and still is, the homeland of the Mi'kmaq people.
The flag raising is one of many steps needed to heal the broken relationship between First Nations people and all those who now make Canada their homeland. Hopefully, future generations attending StFX will not hear the horrible stories of racism that I heard from my Mi'kmaq classmates and friends from Cape Breton in my first year at St FX in 1964”.
The permanent installation of the Mi’kmaq flag is also a way to keep the reconciliation process in motion. It’s a step forward to help build a stronger relationship among the Mi’kmaq people and the staff and students here on this campus, and with everyone in the province of Nova
Scotia. The permanent installation of this flag is sign of the university telling the Mi’kmaq that they support them and recognize that this is their land and they are welcome to practice their culture as freely as they want to. This new strong relationship that is being built will allow new opportunities to flourish for Mi’kmaq people in the coming years.