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Building friendships, celebrating history

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on June 10, 2016 in News

The Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag was permanently installed on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus today — a first for a Nova Scotia university campus.   

A shared history was acknowledged on Friday, June 10 with the permanent installation of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus — a first for a Nova Scotia university.

The flag was raised in recognition that the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus sits on Traditional Territory of the indigenous Mi’kmaq people and was marked with a special ceremony in the Faculty’s Centennial Amphitheatre. Elder Jane Abraham, of Millbrook First Nation and Dalhousie’s Elders-in Residence program, performed a Four Directions blessing of the flag while Mi’kmaq drumming group Samqwan Boyz and traditional and Fancy Shawl dancers welcomed guests to this historic event.

The Indigenous Mi’kmaq people have inhabited the region surrounding Dal’s Agricultural Campus for thousands of years. During the late 1700s and the early 1800s, the Mi’kmaq lived along the banks of the Salmon River, which runs between the Town of Truro and the Village of Bible Hill.

The land on which Dal’s Agricultural Campus sits was acquired and sold in 1885 to establish a School of Agriculture for the province (which would later become the former Nova Scotia Agricultural College and, today, the Faculty of Agriculture). When the school started expanding, the Mi’kmaq peoples were moved to property on King Street. 

“Because of this history there is a special relationship that needs to be acknowledged between Dalhousie University, the Faculty of Agriculture and the Millbrook First Nation community,” said Faculty of Agriculture Dean David Gray. "With the raising of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag, we welcome the First Nations community to our campus and campus community and acknowledge their history as part of our history.”

The permanent installation of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag on the Agricultural Campus, a first for Dalhousie as well, strengthens the university community and helps to provide a welcoming community to all learners.

“Our university is strengthened by our diversity and as a university, we are committed to being a place where everyone feels welcomed and supported, which is why our Strategic Direction prioritizes fostering a culture of diversity and inclusiveness,” explained Dalhousie University President Richard Florizone. “At Dalhousie, we welcome the guidance offered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action and take our response very seriously.”

Dr. David Gray, Dr. Don Julien Executive Director of The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Elder Jane Abram, Cst. Troy Julian of the Millbrook detachment and Dr. Richard Florizone

Special guests at the ceremony included Don Julien, executive director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Ron Knockwood, district Chief of the Mi'kmaq Grand Council Sipekne'kati District, and Chief Robert Gloade, Millbrook First Nation.  Students from Millbrook First Nation and Paq'tnkek First Nation also spent the morning touring campus before the ceremony.

“The raising of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag today demonstrates that Dalhousie University and the Agricultural Campus acknowledge they are on unceeded Mi'kmaq territory,” said Millbrook First Nation Chief Robert Gloade. “And they acknowledge the importance of the relationship between the Mi'kmaq and access to educational facilities for the continued betterment of the role of Mi'kmaq in our territory.”

Dalhousie has several initiatives in progress or underway to help support Indigenous learners and scholarship within its community. Among them: the long-running Transition Year Program, a new Aboriginal Student Advisor (in partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq), the introduction of a new minor in Indigenous Studies and the new Elders-in-Residence program.

On the Agricultural Campus, where the Mi’kmaq flag now flies, an additional Aboriginal Student Support position has been added to help develop stronger connections with the Aboriginal community, providing the appropriate level of support and a welcoming community on campus to learners along with an Aboriginal resource room.

“Dalhousie University is working to ensure an environment that embraces Canada’s Aboriginal heritage and although there has been some success to date, there is still work left to do,” said President Richard Florizone. “We must continue to work to ensure Dalhousie University is a community that embraces diversity and encourages the important contributions of our Mi’kmaq colleagues and scholars. “

The Agricultural Campus is the first Dalhousie campus to permanently fly the Mi’kmaq flag but it will not be the only one: plans are underway for new flag installations in Halifax as well, with ceremonies tentatively planned for Mi’kmaq History Month in October.