First Nation Warriors. Dalhousie First Nations. Aboriginal Mental Health Awareness Project. This is our way.
These were just a few of the T-shirt slogans which could be seen last Thursday in the quad at Dalhousie’s fifth-annual Mi'kmaq Mawio’mi. The colourful powwow, which also commemorated the 28th year of Treaty Day celebrations in Halifax, brought together people of all ages, both native and non-native, to celebrate Mi’kmaq culture at Dal.
Attendees of the event were immersed in authentic Mi’kmaq traditions including a traditional meal in the Studley Gym, a grand entry of community elders followed by the raising of the Mi'kmaq flag in the quad and gathering. The celebration also featured cultural dance, music and prayer.
Jane Abrahams, a community elder, delivered the opening prayer prior at the flag raising to highlight the importance of gratitude and wisdom for the Mi’kmaq people.
“Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life,” she said. “When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
Following the prayer, Dal President Richard Florizone, along with community elders, had the honour of raising the flag.
“Aboriginal culture is Canadian culture and it's important that we understand this part of our history,” he said. “Today is an example of how we can come together, share our cultures and preserve the culture of the Mi’kmaq people.”
Colours of celebration
Another example of preserving Mi’kmaq culture is Dalhousie’s new interdisciplinary minor in Aboriginal Studies. Currently in the developmental stages, this new minor is designed to better support Aboriginal students and students interested in studying a more Aboriginal-focused curriculum.
After the flag raising, those who attended the event were invited back to the Studley gym (and out of the mist and light rain) where Mi’kmaq grass dancers took the floor to perform a traditional dance before the re-entry of community elders. Dr. Don Julian, director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, explained that in warrior societies, the honourable duty of grass dancers is to bless the ground and look out for other warriors. Aside from the traditional dance, the gym was filled with colourful bracelets, blankets and dream catchers for those who wanted to purchase and bring home a piece of Mi’kmaq culture.
Sarah Strandholt, a third year Kinesiology student at Dal, picked up a handmade dream catcher. “I think it’s so important to celebrate multiculturalism, especially in a city like Halifax where the roots of indigenous culture are so strong,” she said. “It makes me proud to be a Dal student when I attend events like this.”
For Dr. Julian, the respect and participation among those who attended the Mawio’mi brought the celebration of sharing culture full circle.
“We sing not only to honour our nation, but also nations coming together,” he said. “This is our way of thanking you for putting your life on the line for our land, our freedom and our way of life.”
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