Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Seeking Guidance: Mi’kmaw Knowledge Holders gather at StFX

January 20th, 2017
Among the Elders and Knowledge Carriers (who include several StFX graduates) pictured are Albert Marshall, Cheryl Bartlett, Andrea Currie, Sarah Francis, Magit Poulette, Josephine Peck, Jane Meader, Kerry Prosper, Sheila Francis, Hubba Lafford and Dr. Jane McMillan

StFX welcomed a group of Elders and Knowledge Carriers from nearby communities to campus this week for a nearly two-day dialogue to share progress on StFX’s indigenization and reconciliation activities and to learn from the Mi’kmaw Knowledge Holders’ perspectives, insights and advice.

The meeting, entitled “Seeking Guidance with Mi’kmaw Knowledge Holders,” was organized by a subcommittee of the Committee on Indigenization of the Academic Program at StFX (the COI).

“The goal is to produce an action plan for moving the visions of the Knowledge Holders forward and taking steps to address community concerns,” says StFX anthropology professor and Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Communities Dr. L. Jane McMillan, who facilitated the day-long meeting on Jan. 20.

The event included several panel discussions focused on sharing experiences, stories and visions for university and community relationships and actions for reconciliation, and a sharing circle in which participants considered building relations for reconciliation in teaching, research and service.

Andrea Currie, a member of the Métis Nation Manitoba, who works in We’koqma’q First Nation as a community-based clinical therapist, says the day has been good with much rich sharing from Elders and Knowledge Holders.

It’s a valuable opportunity for university administrators and program and policy makers to hear about what reconciliation in an educational institution needs to involve, she says.

“It really requires deep questioning of the premises underlying post-secondary education in Canada today in that it’s really rooted in the dominant culture, and has been used as a tool in the service of colonization in perpetuating the dominant culture. Reconciliation from an Indigenous perspective is about decolonization. Without that we can’t build relationships based on trust,” she says.

If this happens, it can transform StFX into an ally, she says. “And then we can build relationships and work together for a different future.”

Cheryl Bartlett, a professor emeritus at Cape Breton University, where she was a biology professor and held a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Science which included working with Elders to develop ways to teach science that is respectful and inclusive, also says the day and discussion has been good.

“I compliment StFX. You’re asking these questions, and holding these events. It’s so important to listen to the community, and co-learning with the community, because we need to learn to listen and help the community people who want change, and we need to work side by side.

“The only way to do that is listening to the stories,” she says. “This is about developing relationships and sharing understanding.”

Guests arrived on campus the evening of Jan. 19 where they were greeted by StFX students.  

The meetings were designed to allow StFX administration, COI members and students to learn from the knowledge and experience of the local communities as the university moves toward a larger summit to take place later in the year aimed at furthering the reconciliation efforts at StFX.



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