A baby step towards truth and reconciliation
On Wednesday, October 3, a Mawiomi livened up Bloomfield Centre starting 1pm. Traditional dances took place throughout the afternoon in the McKay Room and merchandise tables were setup in the adjacent room along with gratis coffee, tea, water and food.
Astonishing dances unique to dancers in beautiful regalia like Brooklyn Bernard’s performance moved to the rhythm of the drummers and singers’ group. Bernard is from Paq’tnkek First Nation, one of many community members at the event.
Other dances were intertribal, meaning people of all cultures were welcomed to join in the dance. I participated in my second Round Dance, a traditional healing ceremony, that was again uplifting for the spirit and a learning experience.
Kerry Prosper is the Knowledge Keeper on campus and attended the event. Prosper is a Band Council member from Paq’tnkek who is co-author of “Returning to Netukulimk: Mi’kmaq cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship and self-governance” and Sustainability Planning and Collaboration in Rural Canada: Taking the Next Steps.
Prosper commented on the significance of having a Mawiomi on campus, “This institution has been here, in Mi’kma’ki, for over a hundred years and it has never really accommodated indigenous cultures. For me it’s a real learning process to have everybody here. The faculty, students and population participating is an important part of Truth and Reconciliation. One of the key things that we have to do is get together, sing, dance, eat and share knowledge. Through that, I think things may change for our kids and future generations. These experiences of living together with a better understanding of each other’s culture on this piece of land that we’re going to be a part of for the rest of our lives are important.
With all the current issues we are having in Canada, and many other countries that are battling, between the indigenous people and the people who came and took over the land there certainly has to be some kind of reconciliation.
Little things like holding a Mawiomi on campus can go a long way. A piece of bread and soup can go a long way in bringing us together. I can see a benefit for future students who are coming here. Someday, students in education might be teaching in educational institutions about our culture. It can only be beneficial for everybody and this is just a small part of reconciliation.
I felt really comfortable today with everybody and being a part of this institution for my community and our people being here for supporting students. I know the youth from our community felt good about it.
It’s a two-way thing where we don’t really come here either. There could have been more of our people here today. I think once they see a presence in here from their own community and culture, people will be more inclined to take part of events here. Vice-versa, we’ve had powwows and people from here didn’t think they were invited or welcomed to our powwow. Powwows are open for everybody.
At one time, white people weren’t allowed on reservations at certain times of the year and there was a curfew back in the 40s-50s-60s. They would say you better be out of here by dark because we’re not responsible for what happens to you and that type of thing. People grew up saying don’t go near reserves because you can’t trust Indians. That mentality had been passed down from them to their kids. Sure enough, it made its way through schools, high schools and post-secondary institutions. Now we’re a part of a future education. It’s time for us to shed those ideas and learn because we’re becoming a part of the education system and you got to learn what’s real: We’re gonna face future uncertainties together and we’re gonna have to work together. The time of indifference is going, and it’s gone.
All you have to do is look out at the world and see the trouble we’re having. People come here, to this land, to escape what they were going through, and they are welcomed with open arms. The perpetrators who came here in the past and did things like what happened with residential schools have caused a trans-generational trauma that has been passed on. You hurt your own people because that’s all you know.
You got to understand both sides. Our kids are gonna live without that experience and we’re gonna create a better world for everybody moving forward.”