To the Mount community,
I write to you today to mark an important day – Thursday, June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. “This is a day for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The Canadian Constitution recognizes these three groups as Aboriginal peoples, also known as Indigenous peoples.” (Source: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada)
First proclaimed in 1996, June 21 was chosen because, for generations, many Indigenous peoples and communities have celebrated their culture and heritage on or near this day, the longest day of the year.
Honouring Elder Doug Knockwood
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the recent passing of Elder Doug Knockwood. An addictions counsellor, residential school survivor, author and Order of Nova Scotia recipient, Elder Knockwood was a respected member of the Mi’kmaq community and a strong advocate for education for Indigenous People. He died on Saturday, June 16 at the age of 88. This week, the Mi’kmaq Nation Flag at the front of the Mount campus has been lowered to half-mast in his honour. You can read Elder Knockwood’s obituary here.
Update: Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs
As we mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, I am pleased to share the good news that Patrick Small Legs-Nagge has signed on for another year at the Mount as Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs. In this role, Patrick has been providing outstanding leadership since joining us last September and has built a solid presence on campus. He has provided advice and guidance to the Leadership Team, students, faculty, staff and external partners as well. On behalf of the Mount, sincere thanks, Patrick, for your many contributions this past year.
New Mi’kmaq language course
Of note, this coming fall, we will offer a Mi’kmaq language course at the Mount. Called Conversational Mi’kmaq for Non-Speakers (MIKM 2113), the course will be offered by video conference in partnership with Cape Breton University and will provide students an understanding of and ability to speak basic Mi’kmaq. (Learn more here)
Wikuom raised in new location
Also of note, the wikuom first installed on the Mount campus last year (2017) has recently been raised in a new and more convenient location between Evaristus Hall and the Rosaria Student Centre. The wikuom is a special place for Indigenous gathering and education.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge two committees whose input and advice are invaluable. At the Mount, we continue to benefit from the important guidance of our External and Internal Aboriginal Advisory Committee members. Sincere thanks to all those who lend their expertise through participation in these groups.
I encourage each of you to embrace the chance to attend special events this week to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day. Or perhaps you may choose a more personalized means of celebration and reflection. Whatever your approach, may we all work to advance important efforts towards truth and reconciliation this week and always .
Dr. Mary Bluechardt
President and Vice-Chancellor
Mount Saint Vincent University