A cultural feast awaits at Dal's annual Mawio'mi celebration

- September 25, 2015

A dancer at the 2013 Mawio'mi. (Photo by Nick Pearce)
A dancer at the 2013 Mawio'mi. (Photo by Nick Pearce)

It’s the time of year again when the Studley quad will be transformed into a colourful celebration of culture, diversity and heritage. On Sept. 30, the Dalhousie Native Student Association will carry out its sixth annual Mawio’mi in commemoration of Treaty Day.

In Mi’kmaq culture, the word Mawio’mi means gathering and signifies one of the most important social and governance systems that the Mi’kmaq people have. Indeed, the upcoming Mawio’mi – or “powwow” – will facilitate a community gathering of both native and non-native individuals to embrace the practices and history of the indigenous peoples of Halifax.

Attendees of the daylong event will be treated to a cultural feast and refreshments in the Studley Gym and will have the chance to enjoy a ceremonial raising of the Mi’kmaq flag alongside traditional drummers, dancers and crafters.

Beyond the campus gathering, the Mawio’mi at Dal also kicks off festivities that are going on elsewhere in the city. In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada proclaimed Oct. 1 of every year to commemorate and celebrate the Treaty of 1752. On this day, the Mi’kmaq will gather in downtown Halifax for a mass at Saint Mary’s Cathedral Basilica and a march to legislature where another Mi’kmaq flag will be raised.  

Dal's growing support

For Diana Lewis, program coordinator of Dal’s new Indigenous Studies minor, the annual Mawio’mi serves as a good indication of the university’s growing support for Mi’kmaq culture and indigenous culture in general.

“To have the launching of the Indigenous minor in the same year that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission comes out with a recommendation that the education system is not doing enough to promote the history of its indigenous peoples is very timely,” she says. “I feel that Dalhousie is now very much on board with trying to demonstrate efforts of reconciliation.”

In addition to the annual Mawio’mi and this year’s launch of the minor, the university is involved in the organization of the second Indigenous Speakers series. The series brings indigenous leaders to Halifax to discuss contemporary issues facing indigenous communities.

Dr. Audra Simpson, author of the award-winning book Mohawk Interruptus, kicked off the series Wednesday evening. Next up on Oct. 15 will be world-renowned educational theorist Dr. Marie Battiste with a talk on decolonizing education.

“I hope this trend continues,” Lewis says. “This is a good sign of what’s to come and just the start of more wonderful things that Dalhousie will support.”


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