Winning partnership: Paqtnkek Powwow and StFX recognized with ‘Buoy’ partnership award at DEANS gala

DEANS buoy award
L-r, Paqtnkek Chief Cory Julian and StFX Director, Human Rights & Equity, Megan Fogarty at the awards gala evening.

When Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw Nation hosted its competitive Powwow, “Our Healing Journey,” last April at StFX’s Charles V. Keating Centre, not only was the event a resounding success, it provided a great opportunity for both StFX and Paqtnkek to learn from one another. 

Now, this coming together has been recognized with a major award from Destination Eastern and Northumberland Shores (DEANS) at its annual awards gala, The Buoys, held April 4th in Pictou, NS. Paqtnkek and StFX won the Partnership Buoy Award, one of four major awards presented. 

“I wasn’t expecting to win anything. Our goal was to have a gathering for the community and to share who we are,” says Paqtnkek Chief Cory Julian. 

He says the award means a lot of things. 

“It’s nice to show who we are. It’s about building stronger communities.

“This is really what Truth and Reconciliation should look like, celebrating and supporting each other.”

The powwow, held last April at the Keating Centre, presented an opportunity to get to know one another, and he says relationships emerged stronger. 

“We have to share to break down the barriers and to respect each other’s dynamic. We have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable.” 

DEANS buoy great photo
L-r, Gabriel Robitaille, Brad Paul, Paqtnkek Chief Cory Julian, StFX anthropology professor Dr. L. Jane McMillan, StFX Director, Human Rights & Equity Megan Fogarty, and Dean of Education Dr. Lace Marie Brogden at The Buoys award gala.   

Megan Fogarty, StFX Director, Human Rights & Equity, says the university was thrilled to explore the opportunity of having the event at the Keating Centre. 
The two-day powwow was extremely well attended, she says, with over 750 people passing through the doors, and feedback was extremely positive, with many attendees appreciative of the chance to learn more about Mi’kmaw culture. 

“I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Chief Cory and the entire Paqtnkek team for entrusting us with the privilege of hosting such a special event,” Ms. Fogarty says. “Your trust in us to carry out this responsibility is deeply appreciated, and we are truly humbled by the opportunity to contribute to the cultural richness of our community.”

The collaboration with the Paqtnkek team has been nothing short of exceptional, she says, and it’s truly a privilege to be part of such a vibrant, dynamic community partnership. StFX is grateful for the opportunity to play a small role in the powwow’s success. 

The idea started simply as a way to host a large gathering for the community, when it looked at one point like a powwow wouldn’t happen.  

Originally scheduled for September 2022, after an absence of several years during COVID-19, the powwow had to be cancelled when Hurricane Fiona hit. 

“The community was grieving, we had lost some people, and couldn’t have celebrations during COVID. When it got cancelled during Fiona, we weren’t healing like we should have been, we were trying to get back and get our community well again,” Chief Julian says. “That’s why the theme was the beginning of our healing journey.”

While attending an event at the Keating Centre, Chief Julian wondered if it might be cool to have a competitive powwow in that space. He brought the idea to Terena Francis, Coordinator of Indigenous Student Affairs at StFX.

“It was an idea that turned into something,” he says.  

“It was run perfectly. It didn’t even feel real. Everything worked out perfectly. Everybody chipped in and helped.”

Attendees came from as far afield as Saskatchewan and Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, while world class singing group Northern Cree was the host drum for the community powwow. “That was really nice,” Chief Julian says. 

The event was open to the public and was a great opportunity to try to build relationships and share the culture with everyone. Attendees had a full display of how generous and hospitable the community is, Chief Julian says. 

“Powwow is a celebration that we can all come together and unite, to celebrate with old friends and make new ones, and enjoy,” he says. 

Chief Julian says a lot of people helped make it happen, from the sponsors to the town and county of Antigonish, to StFX, who was eager and open to learn.

He was nervous at first to hold the event there, outside the community, but grateful that “StFX wanted to make sure this was our powwow. The openness and wanting to learn, to respect our teachings, helped me feel more confident in having it here.” 

This year, Paqtnkek will host a second competition powwow at the Keating Centre on April 13-14th, 2024. Everyone is welcome.